My Column for The Elgin Review June 26, 2019
We moved to a suburb of Detroit, Michigan when my sons were entering first, fourth and fifth grades. In Ohio where we’d lived before, my older boys walked the block and a half from our house to Lincoln Elementary School. My youngest son, because he had special needs, took a bus across town. In Michigan we lived about a mile from the boy’s school. They were, by then, old enough and easily able to walk a mile to school. I’d done it growing up in Omaha, their Dad walked to school in Cleveland and there seemed to be no reason for my boys not to do it in Michigan—except—there were no cross-walks, no crossing guards and two four lane roads between our house and the school. When I asked why not, I was told, “well, nobody walks to school anymore.”
We lived in Michigan more than a year when I began to hear why “nobody walks to school anymore.” Twenty-five years earlier, two suburbs over, there had been a kidnapping and murder of a child on his way home from school. Tens of thousands of school children had safely walked to and from school for generations before that tragedy occurred, but since then, fear of a similar crime taking place kept a whole generation of school kids from knowing the pleasures of walking to school.
Fear is a trickster. Fear is a natural and needed response, bred into us to keep us safe, but it can also be irrational. Fear can paralyze us and keep us from life’s pleasures. Fear can separate us from our neighbors. Fear can motivate us to take up arms when the arms themselves are a greater threat to us and those we love than what we were originally afraid of. Fear can deceive us into giving up our liberties and freedoms under the guise of security.
One of the more frequent admonitions in the whole of Christian Scripture is “Do not be afraid.”
The Bible was written over a span of 3400 years give or take. Those were years in which people had true and legitimate threats to their safety on a near daily basis and yet again and again the writers of the Jewish and Christian faith stories tell us, “Be not afraid.” God is with us and for us and will be with us no matter what happens in our lives. The one who created everything continues in creative love to make all situations new. No matter what, God’s love is with us. When we know that to be true, we have nothing to fear.
We need to be wise and prudent. We need to take appropriate precautions. Danger is real. Harm happens. Some people do evil things to others. But, live fully. Live boldly. Practice hospitality. Let the kiddos walk to school. Most people are kind and good and loving. Most people want to help others. Most people want the best for each other.
At Park Congregational Church everyone is always welcome. Have no fear, you are welcome here.