It seems inevitable that the morning news will deliver alongside the weather report and yesterday’s Lottery numbers disappointing news about those humans among us who seem bent to exert their most sinister and destructive actions upon us. We blithely finish our corn flakes while seeing Putin’s army kill countless civilians and destroy all that Ukraine has built. The next segment carries images of road rage that turned from an argument over a preferred parking spot at the mall into a shooting incident with two in the hospital and one in a coffin. We switch to social media only to find more tales of woe. Sure, there are the sunny moments. Some of us work hard to keep the internet streets swept and even plant a few flowers on the path. But if we chose to see it, we are barraged with rage, cultural unrest, pornography and political intrigue.
Much like walking through Times Square in the 1970s, we notice the filth but too quickly become tolerant, if not immune, to it. The death of a friend’s family dog might have been cause for a note, phone call or even a casserole-in-hand visit. Now, might garner a sad face or prayer emoji on Facebook. With immediate access to the news of all, it is difficult to invest ourselves deeply. If we are sufficiently moved, we might offer our “thoughts and prayers” to the mourning. It is certainly better than ignoring their plight. Human connection matters, but what exactly are we doing for them?
Isn’t condolence an action as much as a sentiment? Can’t the same be asked about gratitude? Theologians and religious leaders have long urged followers to assume a “posture of gratitude” before God. Why isn’t the expectation to assume a thought of gratitude? By equating the two, are we giving ourselves a pass?