If our house was on fire, once the kids and pets were safe, there are exactly 3 things I would rush into the flames to try and salvage. One of those is my grandmother’s cookbook written in 1943. Not just any old cookbook, it is beyond sentimental for me. The pages are stained and worn from years of being laid open in my grandmother’s kitchen. There are permanent flour clumps embedded on the page with my favorite cookie recipe. There are recipes scrawled on the inside cover and doodles on the title page. Her hands and heart are evident on every page of that book – etched in recipe notes and adjustments, visible in newspaper clippings littered throughout the pages.
A few years ago, however, I discovered another reason to love it. I was perusing the book and came across a page I hadn’t noticed before. Nestled between the introduction and the table of contents, there is a 2-paragraph page titled “Wartime Postscript.”
When I first read this I nearly burst out laughing. It struck me as dated, provincial, and honestly a bit insulting. The idea that a woman’s best contribution to the war effort is through meal planning is more than a little belittling and patronizing in our day and age.
But after a few reads, there is also something endearing about it and today, the day after yet another mass school shooting, I find a truth in the words that I didn’t see before. In between the lines about Cabinet Pudding and yeast-raised orange bread, there is wisdom, awareness and self-sacrifice that is hard to find these days.
The message that seems to come across loud and clear in this little postscript is one of self-sacrifice and a commitment to the greater good. While you might really be longing for Fruit Torte, the larger circumstances of the world won’t allow that. So you adjust. You compromise. You settle. You die to what you really want because there is so much more at stake. It’s not about sirloin versus T-bone. It’s about what’s right. It’s about recognizing that there is more beyond your small corner of the world and acknowledging that life is not about what you want.
Yesterday’s incident in Florida, along with nearly every other gun crime in this country, flies horrifically in the face of this belief. Even more tragically, the gun lobby also rejects this belief with vigor and fervor. Somehow, the NRA has successfully duped the masses into adopting the warped conviction that your need to own any and every gun you choose is far superior to the needs of anyone else.
I simply cannot wrap my brain around this kind of thinking. I beg a rational, reasonable person to explain to me how someone’s right or freedom to own multiple semi-automatic rifles, capable of killing in mass, trumps my children’s right to feel safe in their own school? I just cannot see the justification and, sadly, the defense of that right is becoming deadlier by the day. So far, unless I’m missing something, I haven’t heard a single story about how someone with an AR-15 saved dozens of people in a school or mall on American soil. I haven’t seen emotional parents gushing on television about how grateful they are that a gunman, armed to the teeth with countless rounds of ammunition, rushed in and saved their child. Instead, our news is rife with broken parents, spouses and children who have witnessed from the front row the casualties of this ridiculous and unchecked “freedom”.
In Mark 12, Jesus is asked the question “Which commandment is the most important of all?”. His response, while well-known and oft repeated, never loses its impact.
“ ’And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Then in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul tells us the following:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way…”
“It does not insist on its own way”. I love that phrase and I find it awfully relevant today. If we are to love our neighbor as commanded, we need to put aside what we want, what we feel we are entitled to. We must not insist on our own way but instead look around us and evaluate honestly and thoughtfully what our agenda is costing. Currently, the gun agenda is costing far more than anyone should ever have to give. We are racking up losses by the dozens because we are unwilling to compromise what we believe is our right. Regardless of the cost, we really, really, really want a sirloin steak (or in this case, an unrestricted firearm) and no-one is going to tell us we can’t have one damnit!
In most areas we’ve come a long way since my grandmother’s cookbook was written 75 years ago and our progress has improved our lives exponentially. But there have been some steps backwards along the way and the gun culture in our country is a massive leap in the wrong direction.
I certainly don’t want to go back to 1943. However, when I read the Wartime Postscript it’s clear they were doing some things right back then. They knew how to adjust. They knew how to compromise and even settle for less, if necessary. Somewhere along the way we lost that ability and it is, quite literally, killing us. If we could take a page from their playbook perhaps we could affect real change. If we could love without our own agendas and realize that sometimes loving well means giving up what we want, then we might have a fighting chance. If we can find a way to love our neighbor more than our guns there just may be hope for us.
I am convinced that somewhere down the line future generations will look back in horror at what we’ve done. They will wonder how we could’ve ever let it get so out of hand. How we could justify and excuse the senseless loss of lives under the banner of our “rights”. And I imagine they will grieve that it took so damn long for us to learn the lesson.
Change isn’t a hope, it’s a necessity. We simply can’t move forward without it. We need to lay down our guns, both literally and figuratively and work to figure this out. We have to be willing to adjust and compromise and, in some cases, settle for less than what we want. And just like settling for Cabinet Pudding when you really want Fruit Torte, there needs to be a deliberate and intentional decision to forego your needs for the needs of those around you. When we love our neighbor as ourselves, despite what it may require us to sacrifice, only then will everyone win.