I have not seen the Broadway musical, “Come From Away,” but I do remember when I first heard of it. The production was premiered here in Seattle, and destined for a long Broadway run. Folks in my Bible study who saw it said, “You have to go see this musical. It is wonderful.“ As things go, however, I hear that said about many offerings in the field of Seattle arts and music. And I just could not work this one into my schedule. I missed it.
The musical presents the story of the people of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, who welcomed and tenderly cared for 6400 people who had been flying on September 11, 2001 and were stranded when US air space was closed after the attacks. The response of that small community has become legendary.
Yesterday, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when I heard that NPR’s “tiny desk concert“ was featuring sixteen cast members offering a synopsis in song of the musical, I made room in my day and I listened to it.
Yes, the folks in my Bible study, and the rest of the world, were right. “Come From Away” was powerful. Suddenly I was back to the events of that day 18 years ago.
But it was a statement by the narrator at the conclusion of the concert that brought me back to my feelings today. At the end of the presentation, he said, “We often say that the story we tell is not a 9/11 story, it’s a 9/12 story. It is the story of the power of kindness in response to a terrible event. . .”
Those stories from Gander, and so many others from that day, are summed up by the simple call for kindness. It is the action verb that embodies the Golden Rule.
Of course kindness was not the only response to the trauma and grief of that day. We continue to live with a legacy of fear, bigotry, violence and hatred that also grew from that day. Yet in the face of all those responses, I appreciate being called back to kindness. For an individual or for a nation, directed toward someone else or toward oneself, kindness is always an appropriate response to trauma.
Be kind. I have heard this before. I have been told this was a favorite admonition of our former pastor Dale Turner, who would advise people with the familiar quote, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.“
This week, as my own family has been carrying a heavy burden in the loss of our dear niece, what I have appreciated most from people is their kindness. A thoughtful note, a quiet word, even a gentle glance and nod, all have been a comfort to me.
Thank you, my Bible study friends. Thank you colleagues and congregation.
My prayer for you is the same as well. With whatever you might be carrying today, trauma from long ago, fresh grief, or simply the everyday work of living faithfully in this troubled world, may you embody and may you encounter kindness.