(This is something I wrote a year ago that I wanted to share again on this national day of remembering.)
This September 11th is one of looking back, grieving our losses, celebrating our heroes, and looking forward to what is, hopefully, a better future. It’s been ten years since that awful day. Ten years. In many ways it still feels like it all happened just this morning.
I’d prefer September 11th wasn’t a national holiday, a big arrow on the calendar that reminds me and reminds me and reminds me. I’d prefer there was nothing to debate about what a proper memorial of the Twin Towers should look like, no reason for awkward body scans at the airport, no reason to suspect people who look a certain way or wear a certain article of clothing or practice a certain lifestyle. It’s a terrible thing to walk through life being suspicious, squinty-eyed, afraid. But I guess that’s what you wanted.
Out of my fear and hurt I’ve wanted you to be afraid and to hurt, too. I’ve wanted to smash you, terrify you, eliminate you, no matter what the cost to life and soul.
But ten years later, I don’t want that anymore.
I’m tired of hating. I’m tired of being suspicious. I’m tired of living in fear. It hasn’t brought me any satisfaction, meaning, or peace. It hasn’t done anything to make me feel better or to bring comfort to families who lost loved ones that day. In fact, nurturing my fear and hurt seems to have only added to the problem. It’s multiplied it. Exponentially. And now we’ve lost so many more.
It’s only made the world – my world, your world, the one we share – a darker, uglier place.
And here’s the thing. My son, my very first child, has September 11th, 2011 – the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 – as his due date. And I don’t want him showing up in a world where everyone’s so afraid of each other, where people spend their entire lives working to destroy each other. I don’t want him looking up at me and asking me why I pulled him a little closer when someone who looks different from me (someone who looks more like “them”) walks by. Yes, it’s just that ugly. And I’m sick of it. And I want out. So here’s my out:
I forgive you.
I don’t excuse you. I don’t justify what you’ve done. I don’t forget what’s happened. But I forgive you.
Because you, like me, learned what matters most from those who came before you. And you, like me, were raised to believe certain things about how the world works. And you, like me, are trying your hardest to live as faithfully as you can to what you believe. But especially because you, like me, keep getting it wrong, keep missing the point, keep needing rescue from all this hurt we’ve caused each other.
So this September 11th, my son’s due date, the ten-year anniversary of a terrible, unforgivable tragedy, I choose to forgive you.
And not reluctantly, but wholeheartedly. Not “you stay over there and I’ll stay over here”, but I’ll run to you and embrace you and welcome you into my house and give you something really tasty to eat, and we can talk to each other and listen to each other and maybe, hopefully, our unprecedented, unimagined, but entirely possible friendship can write an entirely new future for our children.
I hope you’ll forgive me, too.
Believing it’s possible,
(photo credit: Denise Gould)
If you’ve stumbled upon my blog recently or are one of my thousands of subscribers (and by “thousands”, I mean “tens”), you may have noticed that I’ve shifted my attention from The Church of Facebook blog to jesserice.com. And that one looks a little different every day as I tweak this widget and that header and on and on.
Why the new blog at jesserice.com? Because…
1. I don’t want to have to support each new writing project with its own blogging site. With The Church of Facebook, I needed a web platform to tool around with marketing for the book and learn some blogging basics. Mission accomplished! In just two and a half years I’ve sold dozens of books around the world and learned how to change the background colors of my WordPress theme! But the time has come to consolidate my web presence and creative projects under one name, the very name my parents gave me: Reginald Slartibartfast (which is Latin for “Jesse Rice”).
2. I have more interests than just Facebook. Sometimes when I meet people and I mention that I wrote The Church of Facebook (“Yeah, I’ll take a grande nonfat vanilla latte with whip, and did you know I wrote a book?”) they assume I eat, sleep, and breathe Facebook. But if I’m being honest, social networking and social media don’t really interest me that much. Topics I’m actually passionate about: helping people discover their vocation, relationships of all kinds, popular culture and its impact on our hearts and minds, and, of course, house plant maintenance.
3. I’m a terrible blogger but I’d like to become a better one. My blogging friends with large audiences practice three habits I do not:
blogging great content.
blogging with clear goals in mind.
This new blog with my name attached is another chance for me to learn and grow in the art of writing and blogging. Also, it’s an opportunity to use bullet points.
4. I’ll soon be launching a static site dedicated to my speaking ventures. My hope is that the blog will serve as a compliment to the static site by offering regularly new content and a chance to experiment with topics I’ll actually be speaking about (like “house plant maintenance”).
5. Sometimes you just need to admit you’ve failed and start over. I pretty much failed as The Church of Facebook blogger and that’s okay. I have other gifts. Namely, house plant maintenance. I was inconsistent, my branding was all over the place (as were my topics), and did not have any clear goals in mind. I sincerely apologize to my faithful subscribers who took a chance pressing the “submit” button and didn’t get much in return. But admitting failure clears the road for a new beginning.
So take 10 seconds and head over to my new blog at jesserice.com. Subscribe with your email address (top right). to receive my once-a-week “news, tips, and tricks” containing humorous yet thought-provoking anecdotes that could revolutionize the way you maintain your house plants.
Looking forward to connecting more at jesserice.com,
[Please forgive my intermittent blog posts these days – our new baby has been a joyful handful and leisure time has shrunk, as I imagine many of you understand well. Regular posts will begin again very soon, so thanks for your patience. But today, a special treat: This guest post is from Katie Rice, my wife and a humanitarian songwriter who was so moved by the picture below that she wrote a song about it. Any and all donations made to her noisertrade account will be donated to UNICEF and their ongoing efforts to bring hope and healing in Haiti.]
Today marks the 2 year anniversary since the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. I wrote the song “Hold On” shortly after, inspired by the story of Kiki, a seven-year old boy who was pulled from the rubble 7 days after the earthquake struck. I can remember seeing the picture of Kiki being rescued. That image will stay with me forever.
What must it have been like for Kiki to be trapped beneath his home for 7 days? To hold and sing to his four-year old brother, Titite, who died in Kiki’s arms before rescuers could get to them? To hold on to the belief that there was still a chance he’d make it out?
No one should ever have to experience that kind of horror, especially not a little boy. But even amidst that unthinkable tragedy, the look on Kiki’s face when he was pulled out of the rubble was beautiful. Joyful. Unforgettable.
According to USAID, the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti was the largest urban disaster in modern history. The earthquake affected an estimated 3 million people, including approximately 1.5 million people displaced to 1,300 settlement sites throughout Port-au-Prince. 222,570 people were killed. Tens of thousands of children were orphaned, and thousands more died after the quake due to disease and lack of resources.
As the world moves on and we are bombarded by more sad stories from around the world, we can tend to forget the many continuing to suffer from past disasters. But millions of Haitians live in a world still turned completely upside down by what happened two years ago.
The homeless, the orphaned, the sick, the grieving. Let’s pause today and remember those that suffered and died in the earthquake. And let’s do something together to support the organizations dedicated to providing aid to those continuing to pick up the pieces of this disaster.
I am giving my song “Hold On” away for free via noisetrade. However, if you choose to leave a tip on my noisetrade page, 100% of the money I receive from your tips will go to UNICEF and it’s Haiti Earthquake Fund. Or if you don’t want to tip me, just download the song and then head to UNICEF directly to donate.
Also, please spread the word about my song as a way to remind others about the millions impacted in the Haiti earthquake that still need our help. Thanks so much! –Katie
I often complain about life’s little distractions; things like Facebook and a too-long to-do list and too many people to keep up with on more than a cursory level. But here’s the problem with that: almost all of my distractions are my fault.
In almost every case, I have a choice as to what I give my attention to. So if I’m distracted, then I’m to blame for not taking full responsibility for my life and choosing wisely, actively, consistently, where my attention goes rather than letting it drift passively from one shiny, noisy thing to the next. This reality could be represented this way:
Distraction = Not taking responsibility for my attention.
Conversely, I could say:
Focus = Taking full responsibility for my attention.
Of course there are those of us genuinely plagued by things like Attention Deficit Disorder. We may need extra help, manufactured or otherwise, to give us the chemical or emotional stability needed to choose wisely. Nothing wrong with that.
But if we qualify as a self-aware person, then we have to admit our attention is our responsibility. (If meds are needed to help us with that, then we still must choose whether or not to use them).
What tasks, people, objects, or feelings will you give your attention to today? Are each of those tasks, people, objects, or feelings really worthy of your attention? It might be helpful to make a list of the stuff that fills up your mind and take a good look at what’s actually there.
We’ve all got a finite amount of time, energy, and resources. I want to use mine to attend to things that matter most.
I wanted let you know the my wife, Katie, wrote and recorded a BEAUTIFUL Christmas song that I think you might really enjoy.
It’s called Sweet Night and it has been used in Christmas Eve services across the country, featured on a Dutch TV show seen by 1.7 million people, and voted #1 by editors on CDbaby’s Holiday Charts.