I go to church each Sunday morning to celebrate His love for me and get closer to Him with about one hundred friends and strangers. But today was different, different for me because it was the fifteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our nation that caused the deaths of nearly 3,000 that day and countless others who were at ground zero to help clear away the devastation.

Several days ago, I decided that I would dress for church completely in black. I would mourn not only the lives lost but the innocence America and her people lost after the attack. I was also mourning for myself. For a while now I felt my faith slipping away. I had been led to a new place by Him but after eight months of seeking a ministry, a mission, or even just a job I had found none. I would mourn that too.

In my seat, I heard Pastor Tracy say, “Rick!” as he got up and walked over to me. Sitting down in the row in front of mine he asked me, “What’s with the black? Are you going to a funeral or are you just going all Johnny Cash?” I told him it was for 9-11. He said that he was going to pray in the service for all those lost that day and asked if I would come up with him. “Sure”, was my reply and then he was off to talk to someone else. I was unsure of exactly what he wanted me to do so I prayed on it. Surely, I didn’t want to pray my own pitiful words, not the way I was feeling. So I asked Him for the right words.

After the third worship song, PT went forward and began speaking about 9-11 for a moment. He called me up and asked me to pray for those killed and their loved ones. I started there and although I cannot remember the exact words I spoke I know that asked that His warm blanket of love surround those were heartbroken in loss, then and now. Then I turned a bit. I prayed to Him about the next day. September 12th. Globally, hearts opened and people who could help did, and those too far away rallied their support, while still feeling a hole in the pit of their stomachs. You can see it here. For one day, we were a nation of brothers and sister with love for all and malice toward none. But it didn’t last. Eventually things went back to “normal”. Fifteen years later, we remember but we have not learned. I continued to pray that His church, around the world, would reach out and open closed hearts. Be love in action. Be ministers to His kingdom. By the time I finished I was shaking and nearly in tears.

As it was fifteen years ago, and with every other attack, disaster and cataclysm, we became our neighbors’ first responders and will again in the future. But we need to do more, and we need to do it every day for those around us that hurt or are in need. For that to happen we have to pay attention to everything around us because it will not often be obvious. We must listen with our hearts. We must see with curious eyes for those in need or in pain for only then can we help.

I understand that there are many hearts that hurt, even in the small circle that surrounds me. I know that because mine does and I am not very different than everyone I know. We live life and life likes to regularly kick us in the shins. I get it. I have not been a very good first responder.

Today’s remembrance of 9-11 is sad but more hopeful than past years. My faith is growing again and I see that the path I have been travelling is right but I have more work to do. I must pay more attention. Look closer. Listen harder. Be aware. Be willing to make myself uncomfortable so that another might be comforted.

Imagine a world with more first responders. If you like that idea, then be one yourself. You can. Do as Gandhi said.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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