Like many pivotal moments in history, I think most of us have an “I remember when I first heard Cathedral of Notre Dame was on fire moment.” It simply was unfathomable to think something so historic, so iconic and so classic could go up in flames. People started sharing photos from trips with family and friends, expressing gladness for having visited or regrets for missing a chance. There was a universal commonality to our shock and sadness.
When people started gathering in the streets and began to sing hymns, I was taken back to a moment from my college travels in what was then the Soviet Union.
We were visiting Kiev on what happened to be Orthodox Christmas. I remember feeling like all the energy in the city was headed in a singular direction. Several friends and I joined the flow, curious about where it would take us. Suddenly we found ourselves on a square in front of a cathedral, literally overflowing with people holding candles and singing Silent Night. The narrative we were hearing was that the church was dead. Only little old ladies were hanging on to the ancient stories and rituals. We are hearing the same narrative about the Church in France today. Yet in this moment of common grief, even the young folks on the streets join in the singing. John Pavlovitz said exactly what I was thinking in his blog post entitled Notre Dame Reminds Us We Belong to Each Other.
His title caught my attention because I was recently reading a preview copy of Rozella White’s wonderful new book Love Big: The Power of Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World. One of the quotes in her introduction that struck me is “fear and hatred lead to an inevitable conclusion: that there isn’t enough. Enough time. Enough resources. Enough jobs. Enough money. Enough joy. Enough love. This belief in scarcity is the biggest sign we don’t believe we belong to each other – leading to the absence of peace and a world of chaos”. We see this all around us these days. So which is it? Do we believe we belong to each other or not?
Fast forward just a few days and reports of money being pledged to rebuild the cathedral begin to strike a nerve. People ready to both laud and vilify the sources of this money. While the powers that be had been struggling to fund the renovations that led to the fire in the first place, suddenly there was plenty being offered up in a highly public setting. Some folks pondered the motives. I found myself wondering; it seems to me to be the perfect time to reflect on our motivations and systems around charity. Why do we sometimes turn a blind eye or close our wallets to hunger or homelessness, but jump to restore a cathedral? Again voices more articulate than mine expressed these thoughts and I shared this on my facebook page. Some folks appreciated the call to ponder these questions, but several jumped to the rather dramatic conclusion that the simple question of whether we should consider our motives around charity meant I was suggesting government intervention or wealth confiscation. It made me lean towards Rozella’s assertion that many of us don’t really believe we belong to each other.
My conclusion to all of this is that I believe there is enough. I believe we are made in the image of the creator to be creators. We have the abundance and the capacity to heal the world if we choose to believe we belong to each other. I encourage you to spend a little time pondering this yourself. If you want a guide while you reflect on this, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of Love Big. It’s a great place to start.
Because you are worth it,