Yesterday we decided to take the children to Chattanooga and go to the big aquarium there.
We have all had such a rough week that a family outing seemed appropriate and healing for all. The aquarium has grown since we have been going and is now two large buildings and with both you start at the top floor and work your way down, passing huge tanks and glass walls of every variety of fish you could think of. They have a special exhibit right now with tons of sea horses and sea dragons – favorites with our children (and me).
The second (newer) building starts you out in a tropical environment and we were full of mixed emotions looking at the plants and trees that were exactly the same as Costa Rica. Ben (13) kept pointing and saying “Look. The same flowers!” Then we headed into the butterfly exhibit which again was very similar to Costa Rica’s flora and fauna and, after reading the information sheet, we realized why. All the butterflies are imported from the Butterfly Farm in Costa Rica. We visited there earlier in July (see July 7th post here) and it was really lovely. At the end of the visit we watched the women packing up boxes of larva ready to be sent around the world and we had asked if they shipped to Tennessee. They do, and the aquarium receives a box from the Farm every Monday and Wednesday with about 500 new butterflies a week coming in.
As Max (5) was holding a butterfly on his finger he said “I wonder if we got to see this little guy when he was just an egg in Costa Rica?” Doing the math we figured that, yes, we were probably there when “he” was in that early stage. We were all again amazed at how small our world really is, and how learning and travel make connections that stir our souls in so many complex ways.
As I posted yesterday, our UU church was the scene of a tragic shooting this Sunday. Two people are dead and others seriously hurt. Our friend Tammy is still in critical condition but the news is positive so we are hopeful she will be back to laughing and chasing preschoolers around the playground soon.
Last night two of my sons and I attended a big candle light vigil held at the neighboring church. The parking lot was full so we had to walk through our church to get there. It was actually very healing to do so but incredibly sad. There is an aura of heaviness now. The other church was packed with people. I started to notice many women wearing head scarves and men in yarmulkes and to realize I didn’t know a lot of these folks. It turns out the local mosque and synagogues, plus other local churches, had rallied together to bring large amounts of food to nourish our community and be of support. There were hundreds of people of varying faiths coming together in this large Presbyterian church just to hug us, hold candles, listen to our laments, and demonstrate in their presence the support for goodness and love of all.
Our minister spoke and the president of the UU church, Rev. William Sinkford gave a moving speech and shared that at the same time we were having our candle light vigil, other UU churches around the world were doing likewise. This really impacted my 13 year old Ben and helped him to recognize and feel joy about being a part of such a large and wonderful community. At the end of the service the song The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow started to play and the children who had practiced so hard and were putting on the play Annie went up on stage. They sang that song with such determination and hope it had most in the audience in tears again. Good shines through.
The gunman killed our congregants because he doesn’t agree with our open stance to accepting and loving everyone. He disagrees with being “liberal” and is anti-gay. Well what a showing last night to present a visible force against such hatred and negative ideology. Many of the represented religions may disagree with elements of our beliefs but our shared belief in loving and accepting all and seeing the goodness in life was what came through last night as we all stood holding candles to light our world. One mentally ill and deranged person can not stop goodness from going forward. The sun WILL come out – hatred isn’t going to stop that!
We decided to leave a few weeks early and so arrived home last week. It was an interesting re-entry back to US and home base. I thought I was ready to leave Costa Rica because between the scary driving, threat of crime and high prices, I was thinking longingly of home.
Today though something horrific has happened in my home and I am alternately wishing I was back “safely” in Costa Rica and very glad to be here. Our loved Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist church was the scene of a shooting today. A gunman entered the church with a guitar case which he opened up and randomly fired at people who were innocently watching a big children’s production of Annie during our service.
My family was not at the service although last night we had discussed going. This morning we were still feeling lazy so stayed at home and made muffins in our pjs. Why we make these decisions and how the smallest decision can change our entire life is a total mystery and scares the heck out of me at times such as this. Even my 18 year old son who normally attends every week did not go as he was staying at a friend’s home.
As of now one person is dead (he put himself in front of the shooter to protect children) and a few others are clinging on. One of them is a mom of two adorable little boys who were sitting next to her in the sanctuary when it happened. Please hold them and all the congregation in your hearts. We are going to need some healing here.
I cannot help but compare this to Costa Rica. There we lived with an armed guard 24 hours and the worry of theft and car jacking etc. I wrote previously about how draining that was but you know it is crime that I can understand. People are very poor and steal to provide for their families and themselves. I can even understand the thefts to gain money to support their drug or alcohol problems. But senseless and random shooting at children and parents in a church is just incomprehensible. No words for it.