Back in October, when I was writing an SoCS post, I made a minor edit. Not the kind Linda would have chastised me for, just one of those, “oops, shouldn’t say that” moments. I was going to refer to a bowl of empty mussel shells as “dead soldiers.” According to one source – no not Wikipedia – a “dead soldier” has referred to an empty thing (usually a beer bottle) since sometime during WWI. I’ve heard and used the expression all my life, but I decided to stop. We have buried too many soldiers.
A little later, as I continued reading about people affected by Hurricane Michael, I continued to mention that I would keep someone in my thoughts and prayers, and I started thinking about that expression. It rolls off our digital tongue so easily, but it’s giving me pause. It has become the mocking standard for people who want to call out Congress for taking no serious action on gun violence. Saying it sometimes makes me feel subject to that ridicule.
Then I ask, what does this expression really mean? Is it hollow? Is it nothing more than a feel-good way to get off the hook of saying, or doing anything meaningful? Perhaps, if you don’t think, or if you don’t pray. Or, as I was taught, if you don’t ask for the right thing when you pray.
“You can’t ask God to make the Steelers win” – yes, our minister actually said this during one of his sermons – “…but you can ask Him to help the players play their best game.”
So, just in case there are any members of Congress reading, If you’re going to pray about gun violence, it would go something like this: “please help me to figure out a solution and give me the strength to stand up to the people who will line up against me as I try to bring that solution to pass.”
I don’t care what your solution is. It can be anything from ban all guns to arm everyone. On the other hand, some of the politicians who offer their “thoughts and prayers” seem to be insulting people who actually think and pray.
When I tell someone I will keep them in my thoughts and prayers, I do. So, I resent the mocking comments that seem aimed at the world, as if no one ever follows through on that pledge. If I don’t think the person will appreciate my prayers (some people are on record) I leave that part out (although I still might pray for them, cuz Sunday School lessons). I can’t imagine anyone objecting to my keeping a good thought on their behalf. Thinking is a different issue.
I like to think that I think.
I’m not sure how you measure it, but seems there are fewer people thinking today, than there are people praying.
To be clear, I don’t care what people think about things, if in fact, they do think. If they listen to some talking-head commentator on a 24-hour news channel and substitute his or her opinion for their thoughts, they’re not thinking.
Thinking requires facts – opinions are not facts – and time. When we gather some facts about a subject, study those facts, compare those facts to other facts and arrive at our own conclusions, we’re thinking. Thinking also requires the willingness to consider new facts once we have formed an opinion – sometimes, that’s the hardest kind of thinking there is.
So, when there’s a disaster or a local situation that puts people in harm’s way or has affected a group of people and we say that our “thoughts and prayers are with them,” what does that mean?
It might mean that we ask God to help them recover, find shelter, or deal with the grief they now feel. It might mean that we remember to ask them if they are OK. It might mean that we donate to an agency that’s trying to help. It might mean that we don’t joke about the situation. It might mean that we, as a blog-buddy put it so well, “don’t add to the problems by traveling to the affected areas.”
It also might mean that those of us that are thousands of miles from the situation don’t complain about how the event has affected us:
“Great, my team’s game was cancelled due to the hurricane. Why do these things happen to me?”
See, if you think, you don’t say things like that.
The gallery includes a few more images of sun, surf and critters (you can click anywhere to start a slideshow). The video below the gallery is one of my favorites on the subject of thinking – “Football is fun” from: “Remember The Titans.” It periodically gets yanked from YouTube, so you might have to search for it.