WHAT TO DO?

This is a re-post of a blog I wrote for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks (published 9/9/11). As Boston and our country are reeling from the latest act of terrorism on our shores, it’s important to not give in to feelings of fear, helplessness, or hopelessness. There will no doubt be fundraisers for the victims of yesterday’s attack. As we send contributions and offer up prayers, we will also send a message to those who underestimate our country: “You can’t touch this thing called freedom. We are united. We are the United States of America.” Here are some examples of small ways we can pull together as a nation to say, “We are in this together. I stand with you.” “What to do?” Like most Americans, I asked myself that question during the week after September 11, 2001. As I stared with disbelief at the images of Ground Zero on TV, my heart cried out with the need to do something, but what? What could I do that would make a difference? It was not feasible to travel to New York City to cheer on the rescue workers, but it occurred to me that there were things I could do right here at home. I thought of the story in the Bible of the woman with the alabaster jar: she broke it, and anointed Jesus with the expensive perfume it contained. Jesus commended her, “She did what she could.” (Mark 14:8). In the midst of desperate times, we may not be able to do great things, but let it be said that we did what we could. My flag flew 24 hours/day to show my support for my country. My final thoughts of the day were prayers for our president, his advisers, and our military. I asked God to bless America and keep her safe from harm. I wore a lapel pin of the stars-and-stripes. There was a sense of unity as I saw others in public, proudly wearing their colors, too. Without a word, when we looked at each others’ pins, it communicated, “We’re in this together.” I gave bags of cans and bottles to a fundraising effort done by our local high school. Our teens wanted to contribute to the NYC Victims’ Fund. I wanted to encourage their sense of compassion and patriotism, and cheer, “Way to go!” On a day off, I made a large pot of chicken soup. Carrots from my Dad’s garden seemed to add to its therapeutic value. I invited my pastor and his wife to dinner after church that Sunday. Their daughter was teaching overseas in a country near Afghanistan. I wanted to assure them of my prayers. With a bowl of homemade chicken soup, I wanted to say, “Everything will be okay.” I brought leftover soup to my 90-year old Uncle Reino. He lived alone, but managed remarkably well, in spite of having lost a leg to cancer. He was widowed the year after my husband died; a special bond was forged out of our losses. We sat in his front porch and exchanged a few words of disbelief about that week’s events. Mainly, we just sat. I shared the ministry of presence with him. A container of soup and a brief visit told him, “I’m still here. I love you.” I baked cookies to send in a care package to my daughters, Aimee and Molly, who lived downstate. On top of each box, I placed patriotic dishtowels I purchased on clearance after the Fourth of July. I intended to give them the towels the following year, but their message, “God bless America,” was needed then. The care packages were my way of saying, “I can’t be with you now, but I’m sending this hug through the mail.” Aimee and her husband, Andy were just weeks into their new careers when the whole world changed. I sent a card of congratulations celebrating their new beginning. I wanted to assure them, “Life will go on. We’ll get through this.” Molly was a senior in college, getting ready to launch out into life. To my Communications major, I conveyed this thought, “We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. Keep the faith.” Two days after the terrorist attack, I was scheduled to present a workshop at a women’s retreat.  The retreat director asked if I would cover two keynote presentations as our speaker’s plane was grounded in California. In our closing session, I reminded the women of the famous words of Winston Churchill. During the terrible bombing of London during WW II, he urged his countrymen to conduct...