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ZZZ-RETIRED Adult/Teen Evening for Processing 9/11 Events

The Rev. Christine Robinson, Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, NM, September 2001

People were instructed to bring journals. After they arrived, they were divided into groups of 5, with pre-arranged leaders. The leaders had the following instructions.

Leader Instructions

Thank you for agreeing to lead one of the discussion groups. You may want to ask for a helper to be a time-keeper for you.

  1. Announce the question 
  2. Let the group be silent with the question for about 3 minutes. People can write or just think about the subject. 
  3. Go around your group, giving everyone time to speak for no more than 2 minutes. No cross-talk yet! 
  4. With any remaining time, you can have a discussion, but no one may speak more than twice before everyone who wants a turn has it.

What is your greatest sense of grief and loss in all this? If you could wave a magic wand and restore one thing for yourself, what would it be? If you could restore one thing for others, what would it be?

What is your greatest sense of anger in all this? We usually become angry because we have been or fear being violated in some way. What is the violation? The fear?

From whom do you feel most alienated? What words and deeds have shocked or disappointed you the most? What of your own thoughts and feelings have not pleased you? 

What do you think is or could be the good in all this? How do you imagine that God or Goddess or the Divine works in a terrible situation like this one? Did September 11 change your theology or sense of how the world works? 

What are your greatest worries for the world? For yourself? What concerns do you carry into the future?

I liked and used this reading…

A Time of Gifts

By Stephen Jay Gould, September 26, 2001

The patterns of human history mix decency and depravity in equal measure. We often assume, therefore, that such a fine balance of results must emerge from societies made of decent and depraved people in equal numbers. But we need to expose and celebrate the fallacy of this conclusion so that, in this moment of crisis, we may reaffirm an essential truth too easily forgotten, and regain some crucial comfort too readily forgone. Good and kind people outnumber all others by thousands to one. The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency of evil people. Complex systems can only be built step by step, whereas destruction requires but an instant. Thus, in what I like to call the Great Asymmetry, every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the "ordinary" efforts of a vast majority.

We have a duty, almost a holy responsibility, to record and honor the victorious weight of these innumerable little kindnesses, when an unprecedented act of evil so threatens to distort our perception of ordinary human behavior.

I will cite but one tiny story, among so many, to add to the count that will overwhelm the power of any terrorist's act. And by such tales, multiplied many million fold, let those few depraved people finally understand why their vision of inspired fear cannot prevail over ordinary decency. As we left a local restaurant to make a delivery to (the World Trade Center site) late one evening, the cook gave us a shopping bag and said: "Here's a dozen apple brown bettys, our best dessert, still warm. Please give them to the rescue workers." How lovely, I thought, but how meaningless, except as an act of solidarity, connecting the cook to the cleanup. Still, we promised that we would make the distribution, and we put the bag of 12 apple brown bettys atop several thousand face masks and shoe pads.

Twelve apple brown bettys into the breach. Twelve apple brown bettys for thousands of workers. And then I learned something important that I should never have forgotten—and the joke turned on me. Those 12 apple brown bettys went like literal hot cakes. These trivial symbols in my initial judgment turned into little drops of gold within a rainstorm of similar offerings for the stomach and soul, from children's postcards to cheers by the roadside. We gave the last one to a firefighter, an older man in a young crowd, sitting alone in utter exhaustion as he inserted one of our shoe pads. And he said, with a twinkle and a smile restored to his face: "Thank you. This is the most lovely thing I've seen in four days—and still warm!"

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