Agatha Said, pt. 6

Happy Agatha Day! We have made it through March, although it sure seemed to last forever. I thought about skipping a quote this month, but then I remembered that Agatha had some things to say about the state of the world that are perfect for what we’re all going through right now. It’s a longer quote, but it’s absolutely worth a read.

Agatha Said:

“There is at least the dawn, I believe, of a kind of good will. We mind when we hear of earthquakes, of spectacular disasters to the human race. We want to help. That is a real achievement; which I think must lead somewhere. Not quickly — nothing happens quickly — but at any rate we can hope. I think sometimes we do not appreciate that second virtue which we mention so seldom in the trilogy — faith, hope and charity. Faith we have had, shall we say, almost too much of — faith can make you bitter, hard, unforgiving; you can abuse faith. Love we cannot but help knowing in our own hearts is the essential. But how often do we forget that there is hope as well, and that we seldom think about hope? We are ready to despair too soon, we are ready to say, ‘What’s the good of doing anything?’ Hope is the virtue we should cultivate most in this present day and age.”

Context: This paragraph follows Agatha’s musings about life after WWII. Having lived through both world wars, serving as a nursing assistant and then a pharmacy assistant in the first, and returning to work again in a pharmacy during the second, she saw a lot of tragedy and pain. To her, it seems war is pointless. What’s the purpose of winning one war if another is bound to follow? And yet, in spite of the things she has seen, she’s hopeful—hopeful that society is improving, that the future will be brighter than the past.

Why I Chose It: I think it’s a particularly insightful observation. And I agree with what Agatha says—so much attention is given to faith and love. People cling to faith and adore love, but much less consideration is given to hope. Often we look at hopeful people as being unrealistic or out of touch. But it takes great strength to be hopeful, especially in the face of tragedy. And the pain we feel for the suffering of others means we are connected, we care even though we may not know them. To feel that pain or fear and still hope—that is pure and beautiful strength. Cultivate hope, my friends. It’s more powerful than you think.

I learn their names

Whenever something tragic happens, the focus is usually on the perpetrator—who he is and why he did what he did. And while those are important questions to answer, what I keep coming back to are the people who lost their lives. The victims.

I’ll be honest, I hate the word victims. I mean, I get it, it’s not inaccurate and headlines only have so much space. But I hate how it reduces vibrant humans, defining them by how their lives ended.

Something everyone in the medical or psychology world (including my undergrad program in speech-language pathology) learns is to put personhood first. Instead of a “stutterer,” it’s “a person who stutters.” Instead of centering on the person’s condition or disorder, you center on their humanity.

And so in every tragedy, I try to center on the people who were victimized. I read their names. I learn who they were, that this person liked to hike and that one had two kids. It doesn’t change anything, of course. They’re still gone, and their families will remain irreparably broken. But it’s one small thing I can do to honor them, to refuse to let them be a number, a statistic of tragedy.

The people who were recently killed in church were people who thought they’d have a tomorrow, as we all do. They were thinking about Sunday dinner and worrying about work or school the next day. They didn’t know they wouldn’t have a next day.

So I don’t look away. I can’t. I look at their pictures and I read about them. It’s painful. Of course it is. But they deserve that small respect I can give them, a moment to acknowledge their humanity and mourn their loss.

If you want to join me in honoring those killed in Sutherland Springs by learning their names, you can read about them here.