By Sister Regina Siegfried, ASC

As autumn leaves swirl around my city’s streets, I ponder eddies of fear, anger, racism, discontent and unrest churning in our hearts and neighborhoods.

Recently, in my community, a young St. Louis County police officer responding to a disturbance was shot and killed by a teenager. We watched his dignified and moving funeral procession that closed major highways, and felt the grief and pride that overwhelmed both family and first responders.

This scene is played out across the country, most recently in this week’s shooting deaths of two Iowa police officers.

In my own neighborhood, two factions shot at each other at what was intended to be a peaceful vigil commemorating the anniversary of the shooting death of a young black man by a white police officer. Racial tensions and conflict once again reared their ugly faces in a community where many work hard for diversity and acceptance.

Since much of politics has devolved into nasty name-calling and finger-pointing, what should ordinary citizens do in the face of violence, turmoil, and uncertainty?  Where do we find peace and safety when danger and risk seem to knock at the door?

Beneath all the broken relationships are still ties that bind. Somewhere in this mess, God’s gracious Spirit breathes gently on hurting people, most of whom probably want to reach out to others, to listen and talk about the issues that divide us.

Each of us is challenged to be a compassionate and peaceful presence in situations where empathy is in short supply. But how?

  • It might be as simple and as risky as attending a neighborhood meeting to discuss unrest among us.
  • It might be as difficult as really listening to an angry person without trying to fix the anger.

This may or may not be enough; it may or may not alleviate the circumstances, but it is a small beginning to open windows to a gentle breeze of love, trust, and understanding instead of a violent wind.