As this marvellous Quaker Gathering in St. Joseph, Minnesota, winds down, I have to write about what has happened in the United States in the last three days, for these events have reached deep into the hearts of the 1000 Quakers at the Gathering. The tragic deaths in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas have shocked the gentle Quaker community to its core. It even reached into my beloved workshop: Philando Castile, who died in St. Paul on Wednesday, was a parent volunteer at his son's school. The husband of one of the workshop participants teaches at that school and remembers Mr. Castile as a warm, loving father. Similar stories are being told about all - ALL - of the other people who died.
As the American poet Mary Oliver has written, "It is better for the heart to break, than not to break."
The United States is going through an utterly wrenching period in its history. Looking ahead to the November Presidential elections offers no relief from the pain. It is easy to feel powerless in the face of such utter tragedy, especially as a Canadian looking on - with immense sadness - from north of the border. I will need time to process all the feelings that have been unleashed in the last few days.
However, there are three things that I do know for certain.
1. The suffering that is igniting this wonderful land is real. My dear, dear American Quaker friends are are in deep despair.
2. I will no longer laugh at Donald Trump - for me, his wretched rise to the Republican Presidential nomination is no longer something to joke about. It is, instead, a symptom of a profound malaise in the United States.
3. Only love can heal the wounds.
I ask you to hold the United States of America in your prayers.