I discovered recently that as the interim university chaplain, I'm on an emergency response team for the campus. In the event of an emergency, I get to hole up in a command center full of land-line telephones, laptops, generators, and a bunch of large and in charge personnel. It's yet another experience that makes me feel like a child playing dress up, naïve and unprepared. However, as a minister and chaplain, I have not been sheltered from disaster. In my first months here at Hollins, I ministered to a grieving campus after the unexpected loss of a beloved faculty member. I have lost former congregants and co-workers to suicide and death, and have performed several memorial services. For me, there is a sweet sacredness in this part of the job, the journey with others through the darkness of grief, to the eventual hope. I'm not afraid of walking with others through the valley of the shadow of death.
But there is a fear in the imagined possibilities and in the thought of the responsibility I hold. Our tabletop scenario drill today quickly escalated from a supposed fire to the proposed idea that the fire itself could be a staged and intentional set-up for an ambush by an attacker at the evacuation site. While it seems a little preposterous, events at college campuses in the past few years have taken a turn that no one could have predicted. This is one of the reasons for the mandatory emergency plans and the drills we undertake, as well as the metal tool I have behind my office door that is intended to bar my door in the case that a violent intruder gains access to the chapel.
It's a struggle for me. Part of me tends to look for the worst that could happen (my pessimistic side, which I like to call my "realist" nature to spin it in a better light), while the other part gets frustrated by a culture that seems to use fear as a tool. There are terrorist alerts and warnings used as justification for all manner of policies, governmental interventions, and wars. There is so much more red tape which often stops real and positive good that could be done. There is the fear that stops us from living real and wholehearted lives (of which Brene Brown speaks).
A more realistic fear for me is the responsibility I carry to the future generation. This hit home for me this morning in my devotional reading from http://www.d365.org/journeytothecross/:
We are creating the future today! It is hard to imagine what doesn’t yet exist. But the choices we make today will define future generations. We get to decide if we want to be part of blessing future generations. Our behaviors today impact the future of the environment, our health, our church communities, and our families.
We decide if we help to create a future of love, hope, and compassion or a future of hatred, fear, and judgment.
It's a reminder of the sacred calling of God to be a blessing to others, to show love and grace, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. What a responsibility, what a gift.