In the words of Brother Lyle:
I’m the guy who sits next to you and reads the newspaper over your shoulder.
Wait. Don’t turn the page.
I’m not finished yet.
Life is so uncertain.
Here I am.
Yes, it’s me.
Take my hand
And you’ll see.
Hmmmm. A lot’s happened since my last post. I’ll make a quick reference to two posts ago, just because I think I need a little closure.
The murder of a very popular, very high-profile college student, someone who had already begun leaving a very impressive, positive mark on the world, was a national story that lasted for days. It’s a story worthy of a book, because it’s woven from numerous threads of irony. The alleged murders were two young men who slipped through the criminal justice system and should have been in jail, but were free due to technicalities and gross negligence. They were black, living in a mostly black part of a Southern city that seems to periodically go through very rough racial problems. They murdered a white girl in a prosperous part of a neighboring city, a city that calls itself a Southern piece of heaven. They were high school dropouts, she was president of the university’s student body and a Phi Beta Kappa. They were probably financially challenged, she was from a financially secure family. The city where she was murdered prides itself on tolerance and diversity, yet it’s hardly racially diverse. The young woman lived a life of purpose, of service to others, but the crime itself seems to have been totally random and self-serving — I doubt even the man who pulled the trigger felt satisfied; two months earlier he killed another student, on another nearby campus.
I went to the “celebration” of this woman’s life. It was held in the university’s most revered location, the basketball arena. Honestly, I thought the university was overblowing the response. It seemed a bit unseemly, self-promoting. It garnered more national news coverage.
But sitting in that stadium, with more than 8,000 students, faculty and people from the community, the sadness, fear and love were almost palpable. Thousands of people turned out to honor this one student. She had touched that many lives, and more.
I asked a few students and faculty members afterward: was the response appropriate?
Absolutely. People needed to grieve their loss, the world’s loss of this hard-working young woman, and they needed to come together to put their fears out in the open, to realize they were not alone.
On the day the identity of the murder victim was made public, the chancellor, a very sincere, caring man, said the university needed a giant group hug.
It sounded trite, sappy.
But he was right. And that’s what happened in that celebration.
Brother Lyle, take us out, please:
I went to a funeral
Lord it made me happy
Seeing all those people
I ain’t seen
Since the last time
They were telling funny stories
Saying all those things
They ain’t said
Since the last time