By Janet Walgren
Every time there is a shooting at a school or in some other public place, everyone cries for solutions. Gun control is one of the favorites. Can something be done? I believe that the answer is yes; the Virginia Tech shooting is a tragedy that didn’t have to happen. But the solution is not passing another law, or implementing another social program, or adding technology for security. I believe that the only solution is a simple solution that has been in place since the beginning of time. If we identify the cause of the behavior, we can eliminate the behavior.
While I was living in New Orleans, old Bishop James taught me a powerful lesson that I will never forget. He was a master at teaching this lesson; he had taught it for many years. He visited my house one night while I was busy hanging up pictures of my children. He looked at the photos and commented on each child with great interest. He even memorized their names. Every mother likes to brag about her children so I was feeling pretty good about that time. Then suddenly Bishop James said, “Have you ever seen a picture of my son?” as he whipped his billfold out of his pocket.
I looked at the old worn photo of Bishop James exquisitely dressed in 1920’s clothing standing beside his new Model T Ford with his arm around that dumb looking kid whose picture was on the cover of Mad Magazine. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I burst out laughing and Bishop James started to cry. You know the guy on Mad Magazine? Did you know that he was for real??? No kidding, this was before the days of trick photography; it was even before the days of color photography. It was before computers or any of the wonderful graphic tools that we had now, so I new it was real.
I don’t know which was greater – my shock when I found out that Bishop James’ kid was for real and not just the figment of an artist’s imagination, or the shock that I was standing there laughing uncontrollably at this dear man’s child. I could tell that this was not the first time that he had had this experienced because huge tears were streaming down his cheeks as he sobbed uncontrollably. I desperately tried to get myself under control, but to no avail. I was so embarrassed. I tried to explain that I wasn’t laughing at his child; I just didn’t know that his child was a real person. I wanted to die! I wanted to have the earth open up and swallow me. This horrible scene went on for 15 minutes and it seemed like the clock stopped and time stood still. It was the longest 15 minutes of my life. That was 15 minutes that I never want to repeat. Ever!
Then just as suddenly as the photo appeared, it disappeared as Bishop James slammed his billfold shut and said, “Got You!” as he burst out in a fit of laughter. A NASA photographer made the photograph for him long before anyone ever knew that such things could be done…and Bishop James had enjoyed, yes even perfected the use of this prized possession as he tortured people with his joke year after year after year. It was the cruelest joke I had ever encountered. It took me years to get over it. But it changed my behavior and my life.
A decade later, I was a counselor at a girl’s camp in Michigan when I saw some girls being very mean spirited to a lone girl who didn’t quite fit in. All of a sudden the memory of Bishop James’ joke came to mind and the Holy Spirit taught me a great lesson as I talked to the girls. I told them about my experience with Bishop James and how I felt as he was pulling his cruel joke on me. Then I bore testimony to them that the day will come when each of us will be called to stand before the Lord and he will in essence say, “Have you ever seen a picture of my child?” Then we will be called to give an accounting of our thoughts, our actions, and the feelings of our heart as we see laid before us a photo of every child of God that we encountered here on earth. Will God be crying like Bishop James was? How will we feel when that moment comes?
Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the antidote to the problems of our day. It is the only answer. It isn’t enough to preach the principles. We have to live the principles. We have to love everybody. We have to have charity towards ALL of God’s children. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan and don’t cross the hall to pass the lonely stranger. If every person felt God’s love for them and our love for them through our interactions with them, they would never get to the point that they would want to pick up a gun and do such awful deeds. The Lord has told us that charity or the pure love of Christ never fails.