The Common Good

Snapshots from Tucson

I welcomed in the New Year in Tucson, Arizona with the kind folks of the Restoration Project. During my stay, I connected with some amazing reconciling ministries seeking ways to create liberating paths for immigrant and LGBT communities. I left on January 6 for San Francisco, filled with hope.

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But two days later, I became horrified and saddened when I first heard about the shooting rampage in Tucson that killed six people including a girl born, ironically, on September 11, 2001. As expected, the faith communities have joined forces to sponsor a number of vigils such as the MLK Interfaith Service held Sunday evening that was originally intended to launch a week of MLK commemorative events. Instead, in response to the horrific violence suffered yesterday, this service will be a memorial and prayer service for those who died, and those who survived, and all their family, friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

As an example of the interfaith response, here is a prayer from Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon of Temple Emanu-El that is circulating on Facebook:

A Prayer for Our Community, for those Wounded and Lost, and for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

At times of great moral outrage, when truly terrible acts are committed, we fluctuate between two emotions: after the initial shock, we are horribly devastated at the tragedy and unspeakable loss; and then we often are very angry, furious at the violent and unprincipled slaughter that one individual has perpetrated.

These are natural emotions, fully human, and they must be experienced completely before any healing or understanding can be effected. But the heart of the matter, the ikar, as the Talmud would describe it, is that after we are shocked, after we are devastated, after we are furiously angry, we must come to terms with what the lives that were stolen meant. We must embrace what the real value of a good human being is: a promising child, an outstanding jurist, a loyal aide, a parent, a sibling, a child, a friend.

We are taught in Jewish tradition that each human being is created b'tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Today those images were shattered.

It is up to us to pick up the pieces, and to make of those broken lives some holiness in our damaged community.

May the Holy One help us to comfort those who have lost a piece of their hearts today. May the Holy One teach us how to take this terrible damage and make it into something whole once again.

May God give us the strength to face these losses with intelligence, courage, and determination. May God bring those who were wounded to healing and recovery, speedily and soon. And may we remember to listen to God.

One special note of prayer: Representative Gabrielle Giffords is a good friend -- to me, personally, to our congregation, to the district she has served so well, to interfaith work and understanding, to so many good causes and purposes. She is a completely principled person, a warm and caring woman, a good, even a great Arizonan, all without pretension.

She lies terribly injured now. We pray that the Merciful One will help her heal, and be whole again as well. We need Gabby Giffords, and she needs our prayers.

May we offer them with all of our strength and care. May this be God's will. And ours.

Follow Becky Garrison's travels on Twitter @JesusDied4This.

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