Dear God


Too many of us are missing.  Across the country people will celebrate Thanksgiving this month without their loved ones sitting around the table. Their absence will not be the result of illness or old age, but instead it will be the result of gun violence in our society. How much have things changed over the years? I’ve never fired a rifle or hand gun in my life. I’ll be 63 this month.

Meanwhile, no office building, no school, no neighborhood or city is out of bounds or can be defined as sacred grounds like Eden or Never Never Land. Bullets have no manners. They never knock first. They come through windows and walls. Bullets are always hungry. They never seem to be satisfied. They love young flesh and eat children. Bullets are not vegetarians.

How do we go on about our lives without remembering each day those who have been taken from us?  After the tragedy at the Navy Yard, I listened to a worker being interviewed as he was returning to the facility. It was only two days after the horror and the guy spoke like a military man trying to overlook the civilian casualties. It was another work day and there was work to be done. “This is what the dead would want us to do,” was the guy’s last remark. We must go on living our normal lives; maybe this is what I find so upsetting. What is normal these days?  How numb have we become to shootings? 

Should we all place an empty plate on our tables this month? A plate in anticipation of more violent deaths?  Should we bow our heads in silent prayer?  There are too many of us missing. I wonder if at times God turns his back on us? Does he get tired of our excuses and stories?  What if God had a vote? Would this change anything?

I want to be thankful and give thanks this month. Sometimes I need to practice a little mindfulness. Every life is precious. Each breath taken is a reminder of how fragile things are or how unpredictable logic can be and every day our  shadows tip around chaos.  We rise and go to work – thankful that we are blessed to return home without incident or accident. But there is so much crying lately that the way home has been flooded and I fear our humanity might now be homeless.

I think I finally understand why my mother was always thanking the Lord under her breath. She often called on him to give her strength – to find a way out of no way. My mother never explained her faith to me. I really only saw her on her knees when she was cleaning the house. Yet this woman who was a housewife and seamstress understood the thin fabric of life. She understood how quickly all could be lost or simply stolen or taken. My mother never had a kind word for the devil. These days when I look around there is much to do. We can blame the devil or we can blame ourselves. Which is easier?

This month I will say a short prayer at Thanksgiving for all those who remain believers in love, believing in their fellow human being. A prayer for those who show kindness to strangers and do not forget the poor. I will say a prayer for every heart wounded by gun violence and wounded by hatred. Someone please tell me how to fix the levee before the next home is destroyed. There are a few cracks in American society --hairline fractures and small bullet holes. Yet each day is one of hope and transformation. Each day is a day of healing and forgiveness. Nothing can grow out of our bitterness and sadness. Anger must become a lonely weed.  Dear God, please tell me the tears falling are simply rain.

E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist. He is the author of two memoirs and several collections of poems. Mr. Miller is the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University.