It was the height of the troubles.
It was hard to see any pattern. Nowhere was safe, every place a potential target. No specific groups were mentioned, everyone felt vulnerable.
There was no hiding.
Some people stopped taking buses after the bus bombings began. Others refused to go to shopping malls when the attack happened there.
In each case after the shock wore off, most people went back to normal. Their usual activities included shopping, going to work, walking the streets. For some, going back to ‘normal’ was fatal.
She was driving home from work in the usual end of day traffic. The slow crawl became a gridlock. She flipped the radio stations to see if there was anything interesting on. Then she heard the boom.
The bus in front of the car, in front of her car had exploded. At least, a man wrapped in explosives had detonated himself. Luckily, it went off a few minutes too quickly and less people were hurt.
She was very shaken. Later, on the phone, she called her brother. Where he lived, there had been some really severe attacks in the previous weeks. After she told him, blow by blow, what had happened. He sighed. He said he was sorry.
He said, “near misses don’t count, not anymore”.
She put down the phone and sat to eat dinner with her family, like every day.
Sound harsh? Sound crazy? Sound heartless?
That’s the reality for so many people around the world right now. And in truth, I think there’s a lot of sense to it.
You see, yes, we need to be compassionate about suffering. But also, to see the reality for what it is. She was not hurt. Actually few people were in this incident. But she could have told that story until it became incredibly traumatic for her and for everyone who hears it.
Instead she chose to see it as simply a near miss. It doesn’t count. She was not hurt. She is no more safe or less safe today as a result of this incident. She is no more likely or less likely to be a victim of a terrorist attack today as a result of this incident. And neither are we.
So, yes, my heart goes out to those people who are genuinely affected by these incidents. I am moved and pained by the violence, hatred and senseless pain suffered by the victims and their families. And yet I refuse to be destroyed, I refuse to be traumatized, I refuse to live in fear.
Each and every one of us should stand strong in love and hope for a bright beautiful world. For the millions of acts of kindness and good deeds that take place every minute around the world. For the friendship and kindness that we can witness all around us if we just open our eyes to it.
We should embrace our family and friends and value every precious moment we have together, for life is short and who knows how much time we have.
And we should send out prayers and messages of love to all people suffering, whether they are the instigators or the victims of violence. For love and prayer is more powerful than any act of violence.
And remember, near misses, don’t count – they never will. Love, kindness and forgiveness is what counts.