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Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast

Spirituality Essay:

Message from Knoxville    ( October 2008 )

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At our September 7 service, we had a special moment to spiritually connect with our Knoxville, Tennessee UU congregation. This past July a mentally disturbed man walked into their Sunday service and opened fire, killing two and seriously wounding eight others. An avid listener of right-wing radio, he said he wanted to "kill liberals."

How did this man become so angry and hateful that killing those poor innocent people somehow became OK in his mind? We can only but imagine someone very disconnected from the world . . . fearful, hopeless, lonely, and unloved.

After we work through our shock, horror, and other feelings, our thoughts may arrive at the tragedy his life must have felt like. He went over the edge, but his situation is not that different from the many, many people at the margins of society, seriously hurting in our world. We recognize them easily as the homeless and the mentally ill, but those in dire economic struggles, those with unmanageable addictions, those going through severe health or relationship crises, those shunned because of their bizarre or socially awkward behavior are probably feeling holes in their lives almost as large as this man who "lost it" in Knoxville. There are so many holding it together on the surface, but in deep, lonely pain.

We can only but wonder whether that assassin might have had a change of heart if he'd felt a warm connection with anyone. If someone had spent a minute having a real human-to-human talk with him in a store the day before . . . if someone had perhaps given him a couple of dollars or bought him a coffee (he was broke) . . . if someone had just smiled at him and offered a caring "good morning."

We can start transforming lives, our own as well, by making a conscious decision to reach out to those who seem to be unloved. To anyone who might be hurting. For they badly need our love; our humanity; our connection.

Find your own comfortable way to bring more acceptance and love into the world. Talk to the homeless man in front of Mendosa's. Call a friend who's going through rough times. Lend a hand. Smile at a stranger. Give hugs more freely. Connect with the disconnected.

The deep loneliness and pain that assassin felt is the exact same loneliness and pain each of us has surely felt at some point - just to a lesser degree. As we connect with him, we connect more deeply with our real selves; and we feel the common human thread holding us all together.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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