I was listening to the radio yesterday and there was a promo for an interview that was coming up on Fresh Air. I didn’t have any idea who the interview was with and I didn’t get to listen to the show, but one statement made me stop what I was doing and write it down. A man said, “My life is not what you care about. It’s the manner of my death.” As it turns out the interview was with C.J. Chivers, a New York Times reporter, who spent much of the past year with the rebels in Syria. I imagine the quote may have been a statement made by one of the rebels. No matter the origin or even the intention of the statement, it gave me pause.
The words caught my attention because of the truth in them. It’s so easy to go through our days focused on the busyness of life without a moment of real attention given to those around us. Then something happens, a bomb in the streets of Boston or Damascus, a shooting in Connecticut or Tucson a car accident in our own town and we pause and we look. We wonder, who were those people, what was their life like? I do the same. However, the statement from the interview yesterday made me wonder.
Why do we wait to notice our neighbors, next door or across the globe, in relation to their death? Why not get to know them in life? Why not focus more on the manner of their living? It is a simple act and might actually prolong some of those lives. What would happen if we knew each other, if we looked each other in the eye and saw our similarities, saw ourselves? Would someone with a mental illness that could drive them to murder be so easily overlooked or lost through the cracks? Would we have so much fear of “the other” if we saw that the other actually wants the same things – peace, love, family, freedom? Would the grief be easier to bear if we had taken the time to get to know our neighbor rather than grieving both the loss of a life and the loss of an opportunity to know a life more deeply?