This morning, crammed into a car on the Metro, I listened to people mourn the loss of an entertainer who died suddenly yesterday. I confess that I did not know who this person was, so I consulted the “Google oracle.” Those who were carrying on about this sudden death were mostly younger men and women, mostly in their 30s, of various ages and races. Those of us who were well over 40 looked at each other, shrugged, and went back to our reading. Or put in our headphones and zoned out.
(It’s not uncommon to be eavesdropping by force, not choice, on the Metro. This morning was no exception!)
So when I got to work, I tweeted: “It’s official. I’m old. I do not care about ______.”
And the firestorm started. I was accused of being racist, clueless and a bad pastor. Oh, and that I didn’t care if people died. And when I tried to apologize, I got nuked. So yes. I deleted a post. And a tweet. And the world keeps turning… However, in the interests of full disclosure and authenticity, there’s things I think I should say. So let me clarify what I was (and was NOT) saying.
1. I don’t have equal affection for all kinds of music. I don’t listen to ukelele music, but I have good friends who do. (I love you, T & T! 🙂 )I love opera. Give me some good Wagnerian opera, or a Bach Toccata and Fugue. Or some fusion jazz. Or even some Yes, The Beatles, Reliant K, Patty Griffin, Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson. And then let’s agree to give each other space if we don’t pick each other’s playlists.
2. People really DO matter. To you. To me. To God. I wouldn’t be a chaplain if I didn’t believe that down to the tips of my tired toesies. And as we go through this life, we touch one another’s lives in ways we can’t always measure. Or explain. It’s why a stillborn baby is grieved as much as the man or woman who dies at age 95. On some level, deeper than we can sometimes fathom, we are forever changed by a conversation, an event, a piece of art.
3. I do occasionally express an opinion in an insensitive way. Since I’m still a part of the human race, it happens. Way, way, WAAaaaay too often. Today was one of those days where I didn’t engage brain before tweeting. I tried to apologize and got nuked. And again, it happens. One of the things I’ve learned in CPE is that we can not own people’s reactions to our words. But we can, when we discover we have offended, apologize. We can examine why we said what we did and work at doing a better job of communicating the next time. And if the hearer can’t accept a sincere apology and/or forgive, then one takes a deep breath, double-checks one’s heart attitude, and moves on.
4. It bothers me when people fuss over celebrities, athletes or politicians and don’t give the same devotion and attention to their families. Time flies by. Hug your families. Tell your friends you love them. Forgive rather than hold a grudge. Expect beauty. Celebrate relationships. Laugh and love until it’s time to go to sleep. Then get up an do it all over again. Enjoy your favorite sports team or entertainer… exercise your right to vote… but keep it in perspective. Give each other space and grace to disagree. And don’t assume that someone is or is not a “true” Christian because they don’t measure up to your theological litmus test. I want to give you the breathing room that I want for myself.
“In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them, anyway.” (credited to Mother Teresa)
There’s really nothing we can say or do that matters more than that. Give your best, motivated out of a full and compassionate heart. And God will make up the difference.