Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, January 21, 2011

Reflection on Tucson

Today’s Christ in Winter is an email to friends from Vic Stolzfus, retired president of Goshen College. The Stolzfus family was a part Wesley UMC in Charleston, IL when I pastored there, and Vic was the Chair of the Sociology Dept at Eastern IL U. He has kindly granted permission to reprint it here.

From: "Vic Stoltzfus"
Subject: Tragedy in Tucson
Date: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 3:04 PM

Dear Friends,

Marie and I went to the Safeway Store two miles north of our apartment where the tragedy occurred. We were moved by the growing, informal "shrine" of well wishes in writing, many flowers, photos, Scripture verses etc. Giffords is Jewish but all kinds of religious thoughts were offered. I've always thought of Tucson as quite secular. Under the outward shell for a substantial number of people is the use of religious symbols to respond to the ache and pain of tragedy. It is still raw in this city and there is a kind of awe and restraint. It all happens without any organized planning. We shopped in Safeway because the news mentioned that the stores in the mini plaza have had several days of losses. We also contributed to the victims fund.
Then we drove down to University Hospital and saw the much larger memorial in the grassy area in front of the Hospital. It is a trauma center; we saw helicopters coming and going bringing folks to the hospital as we visited. The Gabrielle Giffords memorial has large cardboard signs with hundreds of signatures. School kids have lots of signs. There are hundreds of flowers, photos, sayings of Dr. King, Scriptures, prayers, quotations and tributes to Gabby. Dozens of people were moving about with a kind of reverent spirit. TV stations were interviewing people. It still grows every day.

What does it mean? Even here, people can be shocked, especially jolted by the murder of a child and other beloved friends and neighbors. People turn to faith for strength in grief. I've been thinking about how precious human life is. There has also been a lot of soul searching about our neglect of the mentally ill.

I also find myself so proud of our President. He could have made things worse by getting down and dirty. Instead he has for the short run, affected how we debate issues and invited more respect for healing instead of wounding. Having said that, I can't follow his policies in Afghanistan with bloody drones continuing to kill civilians and all that money blown away to support war with a people we don't understand. Not a single school built in Afghanistan by Gregg Mortenson [1] has been attacked by Taliban.

Love to all of you, Vic and Marie
[1] Vic says: Gregg Mortenson is the author of the best-selling “Three Cups of Tea.” He got lost on a mountain climbing expedition, was saved by Afghans and promised them a school. One school led to another. He is the son of Lutheran missionaries to Tanzania.

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