Episode 32: 1,000 Cranes
1,000 cranes are on their way to Orlando.
This is not a commentary on migratory patterns. This is a statement about the pursuit of peace, and the recognition that when and where violence erupts we will do all we can to embrace those most deeply affected by it.
These are peace cranes – folded by the hands of those whose prayers and whose love accompany the cranes everywhere they go. And, oh my, the places they have gone.
They were first made after the Newtown massacre at Sandy Hook elementary – and sent to our United Church of Christ congregation there as a way of reminding them that they are not alone in their grief.
From there, they went to Old South Church in Boston after the marathon bombing. A city torn asunder by violence received this collection of peace cranes, now consecrated by the tears of grieving parents. The sending was as an act of love and of solidarity. Only now the cranes themselves bore witness to the courage of a love that would not be done in by a bullet or a bomb.
From there they went to a church in San Bernardino, and by this time the weight of their shared grief was almost palpable. How much more sorrow would they be asked to heal?
I attended worship at Circular United Church of Christ this last Sunday. When I walked into the sanctuary, I saw the cranes. I knew exactly what they were, where they had been, what they were doing there, and where they were about to go.
It was the first anniversary of the shooting of the nine members of Mother Emmanuel AME in Charleston. I attended a march of solidarity on Saturday at which the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke – reminding us all that hate cannot prevail as a symptom of the violence perpetrated against us. The cranes know that – they are an invitation to turn the other cheek; to meet violence with love and know that love will win. It won’t end the grief – but it will outlast it.
With tears choking out many of his words, the Rev. Jeremy Rutledge read the letter that would now accompany these cranes to their next destination: First Congregational UCC in Winter Park, Florida: 49 dead. We all wanted the same thing – but it was Jeremy who spoke the words for us: may this be their last trip.
Our souls and spirits are battered constantly by the trauma that is inflicted on us and ones we love. It can be, at times, unbearable.
These cranes are a tangible reminder that there is a peace that passes understanding. It emerges when the better spirits within us refuse to be defined by the violence. It emerges when the better spirits within us respond to violence with love and with compassion. It emerges when victims forgive and communities bind together in common grief. It emerges when from that collective grief comes the impulse to choose love again.
They have tested and tried, and found us prepared to love. 1,000 cranes continue their journey – as do we. May the peace that passes understanding abide with you, gentle listener, as you struggle with the trauma and violence that others inflict on you as your journey Into the Mystic.