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Small things

By April 19, 2013 One Comment

 There’s just so much about what happened in Boston on Monday that’s going to happen again. 

Will people hate?  Yes.  For a dozen reasons or a thousand. There will be more.  They’re already are, and some, I’m sure, are already planning.

In this country, everyone, even the haters, have access to hardware–from guns to fertilizer–sufficient to turn their poison into horror.  We treasure our freedom so highly that we rarely, save in airports, give it away.  I’m for doing something about guns in this country, but no one truly believes that new legislation will stop the madmen.  It may stop something, and something is better than nothing, which is the reasoning that we all use in airports.  

It wasn’t a gun in Boston, it was the fixin’s of a bomb or two or three or four or whoever many authorities did, in fact, locate. It was the mad genius of some demented killers with an agenda of pure hate, a few kids whose cause or hurt was so great that others had to die–men and women and at least one eight-year-old third grade boy.  Right now, several are dead (including one of the bombers), hundreds injured, and, once again, millions grieve at senseless carnage we  suffer far too often.

A couple nights ago, driving home, we couldn’t help but see the blazing lights of the athletic stadium just down the road–a track meet in 30-degree weather.  The stands probably weren’t as full as they might have been if the temps were forty degrees warmer, but tons of family were there, I’m sure, wrapped up as if in Green Bay for the Vikings. No one was thinking massacre at college athletic field, even if what happened in Boston was on everyone’s mind.  If some mad man wanted, we could have experienced carnage just up the road.

We’d been at a musical put on by our grandson’s grade school, a delight.  Wall-to-wall people, a thousand smiling grandparents like us, gawkers with smart phone cameras, and a couple hundred kids up front singing their hearts out. If some mad man wanted, he could make a bloody statement in a flash.

We’re not about to change, and neither are the lunatics.

Crowds gather every day and every night in this country.  No law enforcement units could possibly cover the gadzillion public events we all attend.  Opportunity will forever exist here, and there will always be hardware, just as there will always be madness.  What happened in Boston yesterday won’t be the end of it, and everyone knows it.

On Sunday, in church, we prayed for a family who’d gone off to be with their loved ones to grieve the death of a sister who was murdered, as was her adult son, by her husband, a man who then turned the gun on himself–three deaths, as many as Boston, maybe even more inexplicable.  We have, after all, become accustomed to terrorism. We may never understand the will to slaughter innocents, but that madness is not strange.

Sometimes, on days after such horrors, we all feel like Mother Teresa: “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” 

And all of us know that things will not change. Tomorrow will bring its own horrors. 

How then shall we live?

This is Mother Teresa too:  “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”

An hour ago the world outside was dark as night, but some robin was piping a song, a song in the darkness, singing her own small things with great love. Right now the sun is rising, burnishing the pines in heavenly bronze. 

Small things with great love.

James C. Schaap

James Calvin Schaap is a retired English prof who has been something of a writer for most of the last 40 years. His latest work, a novel, Looking for Dawn, set in reservation country, is the story of two young women joined by their parents' mutual brokenness and, finally, a machine-shed sacrament of reconciliation. He writes and narrates a weekly essay on regional history for KWIT, public radio, Sioux City, Iowa. He and his wife Barbara live on the northern edge of Alton, Iowa, the Sgt. Floyd River a hundred yards or so from their back door. They have a cat--rather, he has them.

One Comment

  • Sue Poll says:

    Thank you for this insightful essay. It reminds me of a favorite poem by Mary Oliver.


    There is the heaven we enter
    through institutional grace
    and there are the yellow finches bathing and singing
    in the lowly puddle

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