This past week our community was rocked by a violent crime. On a commuter train in the NE part of the city a man began yelling atrocious threats at two teenage girls, one african american, the other wearing a headscarf. People intervened, telling the man he could not speak to the girls this way. He reacted with shocking violence, slashing the necks of three men, two of whom died.
Story after story has poured in to our local media of every day heroism in this fateful moment. Particularly stirring are the tales of the courage and the core values of the three men who witnessed something that they could not let stand and so reacted, trying to calm the perpetrator and protect the victims. Others rushed to their aid, holding them in love as they died, offering what first aid they could on a train platform. Still others ran after the man, ensuring that police found him quickly.
The walls of the station where the train stopped have become a community memorial. In chalk hundreds of people have scrawled out messages of love, hope, and grief. Our community has reacted, claiming that love matters and that we will be a people who refuse to let hate and intimidation rule us.
Our job now as people in this place at this time is to be tender with one another. Our community is working to hold space for our shared anguish and to encourage one another to be the kind of people who live the way we think God calls us to live as people of love. The stakes are incredibly high. Are we willing to risk harm and even death for love? I think this is a central question of our faith. What is the cost of discipleship? What are we willing to do and be to live in a world that brings to life God’s dream for us?
Our community will continue to grieve and continue to tell the story of the best of us on the train that day. We will continue to live in ways that speak love into the darkness. It is the only thing we can do.