Friday, June 19, 2015

Holes in the Social Fabric

Yesterday was surreal.  Early in the morning, I heard about the shootings in Charleston, but not much news was available.  Throughout the day, I kept checking to see if we knew anything new.  I kept trying to focus on other things but was distracted by wondering about the latest development.

As I drove to work, the shooter was caught, and the day became stranger.  The shooter's name is Dylann Roof, and he lives in Lexington, S.C.  My grandmother, Mary Crumley, married my grandfather, Frank Roof, who was from Lexington, South Carolina.  I spent time mentally running through the family tree, trying to remember who might have had a baby 21 years ago.

Let me hasten to say that the surname Roof is very common in the middle part of the state.  I've met several Roofs, and we're either not related or very distantly related.

Still, it was strange hearing/reading the family name throughout the day.  It was strange seeing scenes from Charleston, where I once lived.  I often go for weeks without thinking about the old family homeplaces or places where I once lived.  Yesterday, I was suffused with memories.

I finished the work day by going to graduation.  Graduation often leaves me somewhat weepy, but yesterday was weepier than usual.  I thought about my own graduation in a very small town in South Carolina, Newberry.  I thought about the graduating students of 2015, the faculty, and all the support staff--I gave thanks for the community we've created.  I said a prayer for graduates who begin a new chapter.

And then, I listened to a newscast as I drove away and thought about what it would mean to go to a prayer circle/Bible study, sit for an hour, and shoot people.  I listened to all the tributes to the people who died, and I thought, I have done nothing with my life.

Of course that is not true.  If I died in a way that horrified the nation, and my life had to be summed up in a few sentences, what would people say? 

Perhaps they would talk about the thousands of students I've taught--many of them the first in their families to go to college.  Perhaps they would talk about my unfailing belief that my students could succeed against great odds.

Maybe they would talk about my work as a supervisor, the ways that I tried to help all members of the college navigate towards a better life.  Maybe they would talk about my infectious smile and the ways I tried to stay positive.

Would anyone talk about my writing?

Would the members of my church be interviewed?  What would they say?  Would they talk about the fact that I served dinners to the homeless, bought food for the food pantry, helped with Vacation Bible School, and helped design/create worship?

Would anyone think to seek out my retreat communities?

It's interesting to think about the social fabric.  I always joke that I could drop dead, and no one would notice until someone wondered why I wasn't answering e-mails.

But of course, that is not true.  So many of us are woven tightly into the fabrics of our communities.

Yesterday also made me wonder about people like that young man who could sit for an hour with a group of people and then shoot them.

How can we make sure that our social fabrics have fewer loose threads?  How can we weave everyone in?

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