“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21
Sadly and tragically, mass shootings in our country these days seem almost as commonplace as automobile accidents. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but they certainly have become epidemic, have they not? For me, though, this most recent shooting was different – much different! It occurred in my own backyard, less than ten minutes from our home. That outlet mall is a place we frequently shop, as do our children and grandchildren, friends and neighbors. For us, this shooting was not just another tragic news story, it took place in my own community, among my fellow citizens. It was personal! And that in and of itself places part of the blame on me.
How so, you may wonder? There is a legendary story about Fiorello La Guardia who was mayor of New York City during the Great Depression. One night the mayor showed up at a night court in one of the poorest wards in the city, dismissed the judge, and took over the bench. A tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with steeling a loaf of bread. She told the mayor that her daughter’s husband had left, her daughter was ill, and her two grandchildren were starving. The shopkeeper, however, refused to drop the charges, insisting she should be punished. Sighing, La Guardia turned to the woman and said, “According to the law I’ve got to punish you. Ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But as he was pronouncing the sentence, the mayor dug into his own pocket for ten dollars to pay the woman’s fine, then commenced to fine every person in that courtroom for “living in a town where a person has to steal bread to feed her grandchildren.”
Like you, the news of this mass shooting filled me immediately with rage that someone, anyone, would senselessly murder innocent people. I grieve for the victims – and beyond the fatalities, the wounded, and their families, everyone at that mall was a victim in some way. This tragic event makes me fear for my family’s safety, and my own. Mostly, I am sad that we live in a culture where loneliness, abuse, addiction, and lack of love exists, like the poor woman who lived in a city where she had to steal bread to feed her grandchildren. I wonder, could I have unknowingly crossed paths with that shooter once upon a time and failed to show kindness? Could it have made a difference if I had? Could it have saved lives? The Apostle Paul’s words could not be more relevant for these times we live in: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”