We change the flag over our Facebook profile picture far too often.
A lone shooter killed almost fifty people at a nightclub in Orlando Florida. There were tears and shocked people from the world over poured out compassion and solidarity on social media while locals came out in droves to offer practical support. Since then to date there have been innumerable car and suicide bombings. An attack was staged on the Istanbul Airport. There was a hostage situation in Dhaka. People were mowed down by a van in Nice. A mass shooting occurred in Germany. Police have killed unarmed citizens in America and in turn have been hunted down themselves.
The list could go on and on with hardly any pause for breath between acts of terror and violence both known and unknown to us here in the west in countries which we oftentimes cannot place on the map. And it is in the trail of these atrocities that we have jumped ship from supporting victims of one tragedy to another. I wonder if the world really remembers the names of the victims killed in Orlando, or even Paris or Brussels for that matter. Or if we have even given thought to the longer trail of faceless and nameless dead from the Middle East or North Africa.
I have been wondering about our apparent short term memory loss here in the West. We change the flag over our Facebook profile picture far too often. One reason that has come up again and again in my mind for our memory loss is that we are burnt out on caring. As people, it is natural for us to have compassion, but there is also a limited attention span for that compassion especially when we have no personal connection to a person or people in a tragic event.
We can like posts, shed a few tears, maybe even pray for a day, but eventually we will forget. And when each new days in our connected world brings a new tragedy, we come to the deciding point where we either ignore the tragedy of today for the devastation of yesterday or we forget the past to briefly identify with the freshly grieving. Alternatively, we could always throw off both yesterday and today for our manageable bubble. The bubble of compassion overload.
Is there a limit of caring
I believe that, yes, there is a limit of caring. There is only one person I know of who genuinely cares for each life lost, who sees each falling tear, and never forgets what has happened is Jesus. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He came into this world and identified with us. First, he identified with us as human beings and secondly he identified with our sin and suffering on the cross. He is the only one able to carry the suffering of the world with true compassion and a perspective of hope.
We as christians are called to follow Jesus, but what does it look like to follow the hope of humanity who catches each falling tear when we are just people who have natural limits of caring? How can we follow the Limitless One into compassion in our limited capacities? While I do not have a perfect answer for my own questions, I do have a hint in how you and I can show compassion without burning out our caring capacities, of walking the line between apathy and over caring. The most simple thing that I believe we can do is to take a minute to pray. To say to God that I see this too, that people made in your image have been slaughter, and I hear your heart crying.
Can we carry every death?
I wonder if the simplest thing we can do is to identify for a moment and give it back to God. It is impossible for us to carry every death in our hearts, but taking a moment to show compassion by bringing events before the one with limitless compassion is within our realm of possibilities. And while we cannot identify with everyone permanently in the long run, we can leave them in the hands of the one who will truly remember.
So Orlando, you are not forgotten. We will eventually stop remembering the names and faces of those who perished as new tragedies arise and pull at our hearts. But there is one who never forgets and whose compassion does not run out. You will never be forgotten by Him.
By Emily Huyck