Recently, my son has been asking my thoughts on the church burnings. The questions started after three churches were burned down in Louisiana. Fortunately, no one died in the fires. At the time, we did not know that 21-year-old Holden Matthews, the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy was responsible. I did not have thoughts to share with him. I was too busy reflecting on the history of Black churches in America and other times they were burned down. I did not want to share those thoughts.
Next, The Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire and a world became riveted by the spectacle of the spiral crumbling. Once more, it was fortunate that no one died. My son asked for my thoughts again especially as money began pouring in for the Cathedral while very little had gone to the Black churches in Louisiana. My thoughts would not please him. I understood what happened and I did not fault it. The Notre Dame Cathedral was in poor shape and in need of repairs. Before the high drama of the fire being shown on nearly every news station world-wide, donations to the Cathedral had been miniscule.
After a few well-placed comments by high profile people compared the differences in financial giving, contributions increased for the three churches of Louisiana and now more money than dreamed possible has poured in without decreasing the contributions to the Cathedral. Two different types of fires. An international, historical, iconic place of worship in need of repairs and three small local churches. In all cases, rebuilding is planned. In my mind, the only weak connection was that of human intervention or lack thereof.
Then, Easter came. Three churches in Sri Lanka were bombed. Hundreds died and warnings of more potential bombings has been issued.
In the span of less than one month, three different nations experienced the loss of houses of worship. Sri Lanka experienced destruction far more valuable than the material aspect of buildings. Hate was the connection between Louisiana and Sri Lanka.
The same hate that resided in the United States during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era that never quite went away has moved to the forefront again. The same hate that has visited mosques and synagogues leaving its deathly touch continues to spread. The same senseless violence that has broken hearts and threatens to steal our hope, remains among us.
Notre Dame Cathedral was different. It burned from neglect. But, the root is related and the symbolism is real. We are neglecting the very essence of our existence - the goodness of our spirits. I am now ready to share my thoughts with my son. I am taking the advice of Mr. Rogers and in the midst of the neglect and destruction, I am choosing to look for the helpers. My eyes see the destruction and my soul is looking for the helpers - the ones who are doing good.
My thoughts are that we must increase the number of helpers.
La-Verna Fountain is president of Meaningful Communications Matter, LLC, a consulting and training firm specializing in personal and corporate communications. She retired from Columbia University where she served as Vice President for Strategic Communications and Construction Business Initiatives. She is the author of two books, The Alphabets of Life: A Simple Guide to Simply Living and The Gold Coins: A Supernatural Adventure Inspired by True Events (published under the pen name, Sa’lia Friend).