“If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?”-Nickelback
The world I know has always had evil, war, and bad guys. Lately though it has seemed to hit me more profoundly than ever before, that any given moment might be my last.
Sitting in one of those mega-theatres waiting for the premiere of Mockingjay Part 2 to start this past Friday, I was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable because my mind kept thinking about the atrocities that have happened in movie theatres in the past few years. In that moment, due to all of the issues in our world, I felt raw and exposed. I could feel the frustration and desperation that seemed to be reverberating among all people. It is scary, and sometimes I let myself become scared. The theatre on Friday was suddenly a trigger for me. I’ve never been the victim of a theater shooting, but one of my friends has, and was in the Aurora theater in 2012. The likelihood of a shooting incident happening in MY theatre on Friday night, of all the 5700 in America, is not likely. But I’m sure the victims (16 killed and 80 injured) in the 3 theater shootings in the past 3 years assumed the same thing. They thought they were safe.
Theaters are one of the last remaining venues bringing in large crowds that does not have any type of security. There are no searches, no metal detectors, and you can really bring in whatever you like. (I know, because my daughter and I routinely smuggle in water bottles, our own popcorn, and candy bars. With minimal guilt, I should add). Throughout the movie, which was definitely action and has some times of gunfire, etc, I noticed I was definitely tense. I found myself looking up to examine each person who went down the side aisle. I found myself plotting an escape route and trying to figure how best I would protect my daughter and get her out of there if something went down. However, I stayed and enjoyed the movie. Even though I felt vulnerable. Staying was my protest against the evil in the world. And of course the movie passed without incident.
On Sunday, I was at the Cathedral downtown for an afternoon volunteer training. When I walked in, I noticed a man who by his attire and items he carried with him, appeared to be experiencing homelessness. This is nothing new for the Cathedral, which is located right near the Capitol in downtown Denver. The man though, appeared to be hugely agitated, and was saying strange things. He vehemently insisted on speaking with a priest right away, and finally a priest came out. They ended up speaking for quite some time. When they were done, we all watched the man, expecting that he would then leave. Instead he approached our group of about 15, and spoke loudly at us for a while, interrupting our training. It was the words he spoke that shook me. He assured us that we would “see him in the news”, and that “he was going down in history today.” That alone was enough to get my nerves going. Was he just mentally ill, or did he have some vendetta against the church, and aimed to settle that score with some act? He eventually left, and all was peaceful again.
Not 3 hours later that same day, I was back at the Cathedral for evening mass. Before the service started, three young men in their early twenties came busting down the main aisle, and approached the altar. They all appeared to be wearing clothes that I would say are worn often by the gang related population in Denver, based on the colors of clothing, etc. 2 of the men went up and made some gestures and signs, while the 3rd man videotaped the other 2. It was so bizarre and out of the ordinary, that I just watched them until they left, along with a handful of others. I felt that same feeling of being uncomfortable and unsafe again, the third time now in 48 hours.
The thing is, I’m used to fearing for my safety at times. As a victim of crime in the past, and as someone who feels the primal need to protect my children with my life, I tend to be hyper vigilant far more than the average person. A sound that a normal person thinks nothing of, sends my heart rate spiking and I enter fight or flight mode in a fraction of a second. But these moments of fear from this weekend were different… rather than based on fear of being attacked or my home broken into, I feared being caught in an act of random violence or terrorism. In the attacks in Paris, and on 9/11, the victims were people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was nothing specific about them that put them at greater risk than anyone else around. That to me, is the most terrifying aspect of attacks such as these.
So what is the answer? I prayed about this a lot on Sunday. Do we just turn a blind eye to the risk and desperation that seems to be growing each year across the world? Do we just assume that it won’t happen to us? The answer that came to me involved my Catholic faith. If I walk the talk, then I live my life ready to be done on this earth at any given moment. I need to be ready to meet Jesus, and account for the way I have lived, the decisions that I have made, and the reality of who I have been. Moving forward from this day, while still being aware and vigilant about my surroundings, I plan to focus more on readying my soul for the end, whenever it shall come.
“I’ve been such a mess
But now I can’t care less
I could bleed to death
Oh Lord I’m ready now
All the walls are down
Time is running out
And I want to make this count”-Plumb
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna”- Matthew 10:28
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son”- Colossians 1:13