Yesterday two people out for a walk on a familiar stretch of Nuevo, a mother and daughter, were brutally stabbed to death.
We are exposed to murder in abundance in our culture: Real murders on the news, dramatic portrayals on television, in movies, in books, in music, in video games. It is pervasive. When it strikes close to home, it all takes on a different, more real impact. It breaks through the “distance” we usually experience with a murder. When there is a “connection,” it now invades my world.
How should we respond to a murder in a small town, or a murder in our neighborhood? Here are 6 ways to respond:
- The first response is compassion. Real people lost real loved ones. These aren’t actors. A husband and brother lost a wife, and a mother, and a sister, and a daughter. No matter what other emotion tries to climb to the top of your emotional staircase, compassion is the right one to feed.
- The second response is to keep your feet firmly planted in reality. We are still the same community that we were last week. This isn’t the first crime committed in our town. Murders occur in towns of every stripe, because people live there. You should always be aware of your surroundings and be discerning when odd circumstances or individuals present themselves, not just in the week following a crime. Don’t jump to conclusions when you don’t know the whole story.
- Justice will be done. We have great law enforcement officers. I know several of them. They are equipped to do all that you want done, to catch the person responsible and bring him to justice. So direct your justice meter in this direction. And the next time you see a police officer in your rear view mirror or on the side of the road or at Starbucks, thank God for them and pray for their instincts, wisdom, and safety.
- Don’t let fear dominate your days and decisions. I was so encouraged to see one of the “regular” walkers out this morning on my way into the office. I know it is a temptation to be distrustful of every stranger, to hole yourself up in your house, or to stop your normal routine. Resist the temptation. Behave reasonably with discernment and take necessary precautions, but don’t be afraid.
- Get to know your neighbors. Interestingly enough, in our small town, not everyone knows each other. One of the news reports characterized Nuevo as a town where everyone knows one another. It really isn’t true. Our community, like most American communities, pride themselves on individual space and privacy. I didn’t know this family personally, but they live in the same community so it is geographically personal. The more we know each other and are concerned about one another the better off we will be. It may not have made any difference in this instance (some things are out of our control which is what makes it so disconcerting), but it is a safer place when there is neighborhood awareness and concern.
- Pray. There is a lot of pain and suffering. Pray that you would have opportunity to be God’s instrument of love, encouragement, and truth. Pray for a family grieving. Pray for a family that will be embarrassed, ashamed, and burdened by the guilt of a crime that cannot be undone. When God appears to be absent, His people need to be present.
Last. Someone knows the perpetrator. The best thing that could happen to him is that he be caught and brought to justice. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that he needs protection from the proper authorities and prosecution.