I do not mean to belittle your pain.
As a Christian, I have offered my thoughts and prayers often when a situation calls for it. I have also seen hateful backlash from the hurting or from anti-Christian-rhetoric individuals.
And this reaction is one HUNDRED percent understandable.
It seems like so little in the face of your pain. It seems like a dismissal or a mildly flippant phrase that does nothing — when you need someone to do something.
You may be an atheist or practice a religion that does not use the phrase “prayer” or recognize a deity. This is ok too — you have every right to cling to your own belief systems in times of trial — as we Christians do.
We should all cling to the faith, the love, the strength, the courage — the whatever — that helps us to get through difficult times.
So, when I offer you my thoughts and prayers, know this: action begins here. Sending someone well-wishes is the beginning. It is an offering of empathy. It is saying “I see you. I see your hurt. You matter.” In a world desperately lacking in empathy, I think we should share these sentiments freely and abundantly.
Here is a Tweet that I sent out over the Twitterverse yesterday:
Note: Not one person liked or shared it. Good vibes are harder for people to celebrate on social media — we should change this — an article for another day.
Prayers are a conversation, a meditation, an offering of hope and positive energy about your situation — on your behalf. Prayers lift hope. It inspires people to act — people that want to be there and lift you in your time of need. Prayer motivates people to move.
Prayers are a backbone in times of need.
A phrase condemned for being insufficient
This phrase “thoughts and prayers” is currently under fire because of the regularity, the dilution of its meaning now that we face nearly weekly mass shootings here in the U.S. People have become numb to the violence and angry that nothing is being done to stop this.
Well-meaning people offer condolences — understandably — and receive a backlash of pain, anger, rejection. Completely understandable. Victims are hurting. Their shock will speak words they won’t even remember.
Politicians and activists shout that “thoughts and prayers” are not enough. True. It is not enough.
But it is where action begins for a lot of people. It begins with empathy.
And for the love of God, all things holy, and everything in between — we need more empathy.
“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”― C.S. Lewis
Hurricane Dorian ravages the Bahamas and rages toward the east coast of the US
As I sit here watching coverage of the decimation of the Bahamas, in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, hearing of tornadoes birthing and bearing down on the coast of the Carolinas, hearing the stories of those that swam down their street to safety, or held onto a loved one that slipped away into the surge waters — waiting for this Hurricane to make landfall only a few hundred miles away from me — I feel thoughts and prayers.
I want to fling my thoughts and prayers at every single story. To every single person. I cry along with the shocked faces being interviewed, standing in the water where their living room used to be. I cry for the man whose son was swept from their roof — away. Away. He was too stunned to cry.
I cry for the man who watched his wife drown. His sunken eyes will long haunt my mind. He, too, too stunned, too traumatized to cry.
While these people wait for aid and wait for rescue, and while the Carolinas brace their backbones, shutter their windows, and flee, I call for a flood of thoughts and prayers.
Followed by a flood of aid, humanitarian efforts, empathetic care…for humans to be the best humans they can be.
Please read the following poem — written for the victims of Hurricane Dorian. The poem will move you; the videos will shatter you.
Christina Ward is a poet, nature writer, weather enthusiast, and empath. She follows hurricane season with fervent interest. She will always pray for and cry with victims of violence, weather events, sickness, and sadness. She is not ashamed of her empathy.