Sunday I attended worship with a broken heart. I was ripped apart like you were by all the awful news after a weekend of gun violence in our nation. One of the young couples killed in El Paso were related to our friends. They left behind three babies. Another person killed was the daughter of a United Methodist pastor. The stories coming out of it all just suck the breath out of me. I no longer know what to say. So, I went to church.
Along the front of the worship space there were new children’s backpacks on the communion rail. The backpacks were donated by church members for our big annual Back to School Fair here for children in need. We’d asked specifically for the little kid kind of backpacks that we all love to buy. There were super hero backpacks, Disney themed backpacks, colorful rainbow ones and pink pony ones and ones that looked like video games. The church and community members have been exceedingly generous this year. All the boxes we put out for donations have filled and filled and filled again. We cannot empty them fast enough.
When we came forward for communion, the pastor asked us to touch the backpacks, to bless them and pray over them. She said, “Today, this is how we share God’s love into the community, through these backpacks to the children who will receive them on Saturday.”
I didn’t expect to be overcome with emotion when I knelt at the communion rail. When I placed my hands on those backpacks I just thought of small children and how much they will enjoy choosing the backpack that fits them. They will go home and fill the backpack with supplies, all new and fresh for the first day of school. I kept thinking of them, innocent and trusting with those backpacks filled and unfilled every day. I remembered my own kids’ backpacks and how they’d end up with wadded up unfinished worksheets in the bottom or unsigned permission slips or a bag of crushed goldfish crackers that somehow opened there, all crunchy layering in between papers and notebooks.
Did you know they now make bulletproof backpacks? Lord have mercy. Lord forgive us.
As I imagine a backpack, a child, and the journey they will take together, I also dare to imagine a country where we do not have to think about gun violence, lives being ripped apart, terror and unfair, untimely deaths like these.
I do not know how this will happen. I do know we are better than this. I do know God is big enough. Lord have mercy. Lord forgive us. Lord help us.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three grown children, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and cofounder of Connect GCISD. .
P.S. Local friends in the Grapevine Colleyville Texas area, you may still donate new younger children backpacks for the Connect GCISD Back to School Fair through this Thursday, August 8th. Drop them off at the GCISD Central Administration office at 3051 Ira E. Woods Ave, Grapevine, TX 76051 or at First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, 422 Church Street, Grapevine, Texas 76051.