How we respond to tragedy often speaks to who we really are. On September 12, 2001, I and many others saw some of the greatest outpourings of love and support toward all of those affected by the tragedies of the previous day. Some call September 11 “America’s Darkest Day”, but the days and weeks to follow were some of our brightest in terms of charity, in kindness, and in helpfulness. Prayer gatherings, migrations to New York City to help in any way, financial giving, even things as small as flowers and notes left as close to ground zero as could be placed – things like these fill my memories of the aftermath. We all wanted to do something to help and were actively looking for opportunities. When we should have felt our most helpless, we became not only helpful, but we became hopeful as well.
Romans 12:12 says, “Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer” in the context of living sacrificially, of loving good and rejecting evil, of being fervent servants of God. In many ways, this is who we were on September 12. While some focused on those who committed the acts of violence, the energy of our nation was being poured into spreading hope, devoting ourselves to prayer, and standing strong in the face of hopelessness. We saw many acts of nobility and self-sacrifice. We saw generosity and love for our fellow man. We saw resolution and strength.
September 11 was a dark day, but many faced September 12 as stronger and more deeply spiritual people. Let’s remember that.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I Peter 1:6-7
When things seem darkest, that’s when our hope should shine the brightest. When things seem at their worst, we should be at our best. September 11 was a terrible day, but suffering is continuous. There are souls in need of your love and compassion right now. There are people who need your hope and your help; you just have to feel compelled to share it. Remember who you were on September 12, and recapture that. Stand your ground against the hopelessness and despair so easily found in this world, and be a beacon of light and hope to those around you. Devote yourself to prayer, and be happy in your hope, always looking for reasons and opportunities to share that hope with others.