Friday, January 15, 2010

Faith

There was a horrible car accident on the street right outside of our school this morning, as the students were arriving for the day. The tell-tale signs were the varying pitches of wailing sirens -the low honking of the punctual fire trucks, the persistent two-toned police car whine, followed by the sing-song savior/bearer of bad news ambulance - and eventually the nosey news helicopters that whirred overhead. For an hour or more I listened to the horror outside.

The kids who were milling about in the halls ambled their ways to class, a little more quiet than usual, feigning nonchalance. After all, high school kids can't appear to be bothered by much, including by whatever obvious apocalypse that may or may not be occurring on their doorsteps. I could see that their eyes were a little wider than usual.

The PA system announced that we were to let our students in our classes without tardy paperwork. There was, "a horrible accident" in front of the school and traffic was stopped in all directions.

I feigned nonchalance for a different reason - the one that dictates that if the leader is calm, the crowd will follow. I silently took inventory of which students I saw in the halls, those who made it to class, those who didn't make it to class (my breath caught), and of those who weren't in class, those who were rumored to be the "bad" drivers (holding my breath). In the halls I took a silent teacher roll call and cautiously sighed in relief when I recognized that my department - the English folks - were present and accounted for. Not that any of that truly mattered. We all know that there is no reasoning when it comes to "horrible accidents." Without knowing any details about the chaos outside, and while being completely aware that for someone, somewhere - probably too close to home for it to ever be ok - the world was crumbling into irreparable pieces, I steeled myself, trembling, and began the routine assigned for the day: roll call, warm-up activity, instruction, assignment.
_______________________________________________
Perhaps this is the definition of faith -the place where the world in shambles meets standard procedure or expectation.

I once had the fortune of hearing Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak at a local university, and though I drive his message into the ground on this blog, it has become sort of a mantra for me on difficult days. "The world," he explained, "is good. How do we know it's good? Because the atrocities are still horrific to us. That's how." The horrific things- the murders, the scandals, the things that leave black scorches on the face of the earth - are newsworthy because we can't believe things like that can happen. The lovely things, in contrast - mothers caring for their babies, people checking in on one another, people praising each other for accomplishments and surviving the shit - that's what is normal. And here is where we find proof (and comfort in knowing) that the world is good.

I suppose in a way this is the concrete faith for which we are desperately searching. It's easy to dismiss people, to say, "You can't trust people to do the right thing or to make the right choices,"or "We're just going to ruin the planet" or the economy or the country or other people or whatever it is we feel like we've got a stake in or control over. For the collective, perhaps these are worthy accusations. But for the individual... Think about the folks around you - friends, family, teachers, grocery store clerks, neighbors, etc. and then weigh your findings.

If you ask me about my specific faith, I land somewhere amid the God inspired, majestic mountains and man-made chasms of the Abrahamic faiths and serene valley of Buddhism. I'm not sure how, exactly, to classify myself. What I do know is that whatever faith people in my school building proclaim (we are a very diverse campus) we were all hoping for, praying for the same things - that our loved ones were accounted for, and that whatever was happening outside would be bearable for whomever it was happening to. Understanding that commonality is a type of faith for me - a faith in people, more specifically, in the good in people.
_________________________________________________
It turns out that a school bus carrying 11 kids (aged 14 and under) hit a motorcycle cop who had just made a routine traffic stop. The gas tank on the bike exploded, killing the officer on contact and creating pandemonium. All of the people on the school bus were physically unharmed. The counselors from my high school rushed to the scene amid all of the wailing sirens, boarded the bus, and ushered the little ones out. They acted as immediate trauma counselors for them at our school, even though the kids were from other schools. Emails were exchanged all day about how our faculty was so thankful for the counselors and for the officer on our campus, that all of the police department was wholly appreciated for the constant vigilance and protection.

Individuals taking care of other individuals.. I, thank God, have faith in that.

This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Faith, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

14 comments:

Grannymar said...

No point in having faith if we do not use it to benefit our neighbours.

Sandy said...

Important post.

What a horrible story. Thank goodness none of the kids were hurt.

gaelikaa said...

Awesome! I just love the way you write. And I echo your sentiment that the world is basically good. It is wonderful that your school was able to respond to the need of the moment.

Judy Harper said...

I feel for the policeman's family! You wrote so well about the feelings and emotions of this tradedy, very good! Very good doesn't seem appropriate, but it is a good post.

Helen McGinn said...

Ginger, love the way you wrote this tragic but somehow uplifting post. My heart goes out to the policeman and his family. The way you describe faith resonates with me.

Amy said...

oh what a day at your school. I hope that the families that are affect by all of this are okay.. You are a wonderful writer..

Conrad said...

Ginger, you have an amazing talent - but, much better, it rides on top of substance. This is a marvelous piece.

Maria said...

So much sadness and worry, but so much love as faculty gathered together and kept everyone calm at a time of a horrendous accident.

I must agree strongly with the quote from the Archbishop. People are good. And I must also agree with Grannymar about using faith to help our neighbors.

Rummuser said...

Faith works in, ahem, hindsight! Had something happened to the children in the bus what would have been the reaction? What about the family of the motorcycle cop? What about their faith in a just God?

Ginger said...

Thank you for the kind words, friends.

Rummuser - Thank you so much bringing up a sticking point. What you said is my issue with religiosity - that some are 'blessed' or 'cared for' or have had 'their prayers answered' and others are/have not, or that the only consolation there is in loss is that we can't understand why or even ask to know(!). I agree with your statement wholeheartedly.

I think that's somewhat my point: Faith in the idea that people will be good to eachother on a daily basis is pretty much the only thing we can count on, even if others are inconsiderate. The prayers that day may or may not have been answered. It's not for me to decide. But that sinking feeling we all had, and the need for things to be ok.. There's where we were all together.

Conrad said...

Although sincere, I must admit my comment yesterday was a bit of a drive-by occasioned by a very busy schedule couple with the desire to respond because you wrote such a meaningful piece.

Today, let me say that the one thing in this that I will carry away in my pocket you have delivered from Desmond Tutu:

"The world," he explained, "is good. How do we know it's good? Because the atrocities are still horrific to us. That's how."

As I contemplate Haiti and other world tragedies and gross inequities, that one statement will be a help.

Pam said...

I love your definition of faith and the belief in the goodness of people. I have this same type of faith. As for the tragedy in your town, my heart goes out to all of you. I will keep you all in my thoughts.

annie said...

I forget... have you read The Road?

Ginger said...

Hi Annie! Rich has read it twice and has seen the movie. He loves it. I haven't read it. Is it worth it?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Faith

There was a horrible car accident on the street right outside of our school this morning, as the students were arriving for the day. The tell-tale signs were the varying pitches of wailing sirens -the low honking of the punctual fire trucks, the persistent two-toned police car whine, followed by the sing-song savior/bearer of bad news ambulance - and eventually the nosey news helicopters that whirred overhead. For an hour or more I listened to the horror outside.

The kids who were milling about in the halls ambled their ways to class, a little more quiet than usual, feigning nonchalance. After all, high school kids can't appear to be bothered by much, including by whatever obvious apocalypse that may or may not be occurring on their doorsteps. I could see that their eyes were a little wider than usual.

The PA system announced that we were to let our students in our classes without tardy paperwork. There was, "a horrible accident" in front of the school and traffic was stopped in all directions.

I feigned nonchalance for a different reason - the one that dictates that if the leader is calm, the crowd will follow. I silently took inventory of which students I saw in the halls, those who made it to class, those who didn't make it to class (my breath caught), and of those who weren't in class, those who were rumored to be the "bad" drivers (holding my breath). In the halls I took a silent teacher roll call and cautiously sighed in relief when I recognized that my department - the English folks - were present and accounted for. Not that any of that truly mattered. We all know that there is no reasoning when it comes to "horrible accidents." Without knowing any details about the chaos outside, and while being completely aware that for someone, somewhere - probably too close to home for it to ever be ok - the world was crumbling into irreparable pieces, I steeled myself, trembling, and began the routine assigned for the day: roll call, warm-up activity, instruction, assignment.
_______________________________________________
Perhaps this is the definition of faith -the place where the world in shambles meets standard procedure or expectation.

I once had the fortune of hearing Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak at a local university, and though I drive his message into the ground on this blog, it has become sort of a mantra for me on difficult days. "The world," he explained, "is good. How do we know it's good? Because the atrocities are still horrific to us. That's how." The horrific things- the murders, the scandals, the things that leave black scorches on the face of the earth - are newsworthy because we can't believe things like that can happen. The lovely things, in contrast - mothers caring for their babies, people checking in on one another, people praising each other for accomplishments and surviving the shit - that's what is normal. And here is where we find proof (and comfort in knowing) that the world is good.

I suppose in a way this is the concrete faith for which we are desperately searching. It's easy to dismiss people, to say, "You can't trust people to do the right thing or to make the right choices,"or "We're just going to ruin the planet" or the economy or the country or other people or whatever it is we feel like we've got a stake in or control over. For the collective, perhaps these are worthy accusations. But for the individual... Think about the folks around you - friends, family, teachers, grocery store clerks, neighbors, etc. and then weigh your findings.

If you ask me about my specific faith, I land somewhere amid the God inspired, majestic mountains and man-made chasms of the Abrahamic faiths and serene valley of Buddhism. I'm not sure how, exactly, to classify myself. What I do know is that whatever faith people in my school building proclaim (we are a very diverse campus) we were all hoping for, praying for the same things - that our loved ones were accounted for, and that whatever was happening outside would be bearable for whomever it was happening to. Understanding that commonality is a type of faith for me - a faith in people, more specifically, in the good in people.
_________________________________________________
It turns out that a school bus carrying 11 kids (aged 14 and under) hit a motorcycle cop who had just made a routine traffic stop. The gas tank on the bike exploded, killing the officer on contact and creating pandemonium. All of the people on the school bus were physically unharmed. The counselors from my high school rushed to the scene amid all of the wailing sirens, boarded the bus, and ushered the little ones out. They acted as immediate trauma counselors for them at our school, even though the kids were from other schools. Emails were exchanged all day about how our faculty was so thankful for the counselors and for the officer on our campus, that all of the police department was wholly appreciated for the constant vigilance and protection.

Individuals taking care of other individuals.. I, thank God, have faith in that.

This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Faith, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

14 comments:

Grannymar said...

No point in having faith if we do not use it to benefit our neighbours.

Sandy said...

Important post.

What a horrible story. Thank goodness none of the kids were hurt.

gaelikaa said...

Awesome! I just love the way you write. And I echo your sentiment that the world is basically good. It is wonderful that your school was able to respond to the need of the moment.

Judy Harper said...

I feel for the policeman's family! You wrote so well about the feelings and emotions of this tradedy, very good! Very good doesn't seem appropriate, but it is a good post.

Helen McGinn said...

Ginger, love the way you wrote this tragic but somehow uplifting post. My heart goes out to the policeman and his family. The way you describe faith resonates with me.

Amy said...

oh what a day at your school. I hope that the families that are affect by all of this are okay.. You are a wonderful writer..

Conrad said...

Ginger, you have an amazing talent - but, much better, it rides on top of substance. This is a marvelous piece.

Maria said...

So much sadness and worry, but so much love as faculty gathered together and kept everyone calm at a time of a horrendous accident.

I must agree strongly with the quote from the Archbishop. People are good. And I must also agree with Grannymar about using faith to help our neighbors.

Rummuser said...

Faith works in, ahem, hindsight! Had something happened to the children in the bus what would have been the reaction? What about the family of the motorcycle cop? What about their faith in a just God?

Ginger said...

Thank you for the kind words, friends.

Rummuser - Thank you so much bringing up a sticking point. What you said is my issue with religiosity - that some are 'blessed' or 'cared for' or have had 'their prayers answered' and others are/have not, or that the only consolation there is in loss is that we can't understand why or even ask to know(!). I agree with your statement wholeheartedly.

I think that's somewhat my point: Faith in the idea that people will be good to eachother on a daily basis is pretty much the only thing we can count on, even if others are inconsiderate. The prayers that day may or may not have been answered. It's not for me to decide. But that sinking feeling we all had, and the need for things to be ok.. There's where we were all together.

Conrad said...

Although sincere, I must admit my comment yesterday was a bit of a drive-by occasioned by a very busy schedule couple with the desire to respond because you wrote such a meaningful piece.

Today, let me say that the one thing in this that I will carry away in my pocket you have delivered from Desmond Tutu:

"The world," he explained, "is good. How do we know it's good? Because the atrocities are still horrific to us. That's how."

As I contemplate Haiti and other world tragedies and gross inequities, that one statement will be a help.

Pam said...

I love your definition of faith and the belief in the goodness of people. I have this same type of faith. As for the tragedy in your town, my heart goes out to all of you. I will keep you all in my thoughts.

annie said...

I forget... have you read The Road?

Ginger said...

Hi Annie! Rich has read it twice and has seen the movie. He loves it. I haven't read it. Is it worth it?