On Tuesday, the Deerhorn Family said goodbye, once again, to one of our own. The service was beautiful, the church was packed, and there were quite a few Deerhorn staff and campers in attendance. I would expect nothing less. Gabe Deely had a smile that could light up the room, and we will miss that smile around camp. It was a full Catholic Mass, but the words of the homily and hymns spoke to me in a way that runs deeper than our differences of religion. One of the hymns said,
We are called to act with justice.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another…
It doesn’t matter who you worship, or whether you practice religion at all. These are simply words about how to be a kind human being. The more I watch the news these days, the more I am struck by the need for more kindness in the world. Struck by the fact that manliness really does require kindness. I am proud to watch Deerhorn campers grow into men who find it necessary to attend the funeral of a 12 year-old boy who they knew for a couple of weeks each summer. Because entering into the suffering of another person is Hard. It’s a Hard that many choose to avoid. We ask each other “How are you?” but how many times do we really listen for the answer? Many of these kids and staff have never faced death. They are lucky enough to have all grandparents still living, and have not lost anyone else close to them. And yet, they choose to enter in to someone else’s suffering, feeling the need to show support of a family they might not ever have met. It takes my breath away.
It’s easier to turn away and pretend we don’t see the suffering of those around us…the lonely child sitting by himself at lunch, the homeless man on the street, a friend who has just lost a loved one. It is uncomfortable to enter into someone else’s suffering. Frankly, friends, it’s overwhelming too, because some days it feels like there is enough on our plates as it is, and bearing the weight of someone else’s burden just seems like too much. It’s scary to say “How ARE you?” and really wait to hear the answer. But that is where the deepest relationships are formed. Suffering and pain are unfortunately part of life, and if we turn toward people, and are willing to walk with them in their suffering, the depths of the bonds that are formed are powerful. Because whatever religion you practice, or don’t, we are all called to love one another. To be kind and gracious and empathetic. To walk beside our friends and family and even strangers and say “I am here.”
Because when pain and suffering enter into our lives, the words fail us. We can’t make it better by anything we can say. But we can be there. We can just show up. At the funeral on Tuesday, one thing the priest impressed upon those gathered was that “You are never alone.” It’s what we have always tried to explain to our kids, when they get scared of something bad happening. We cannot guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen. But we CAN guarantee that they will never go through it alone. And that no matter how bleak things seem, there is ALWAYS someone there to listen, and that no problem is too big to solve, together. We may feel powerless to make it all better, but we all have the power to help. To just show up.