A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


My wife Anita's family is big on teasing.

When they want to show affection, they tease. When they want to vent anger or frustration, they tease. When they want to know what kind of ice cream you want, they tease.

Teasing is what they do. It's how they communicate. It's how they live.

I guess this is what happens when you have one girl and three boys within five years of each other. Either you cry, or you tease. It's how you cope.

Anita is the oldest and the only girl. Her youngest brother, Brent, lives a few blocks away from us. The other two brothers, Steve and Tony, live in Maryland and Virginia, respectively right in the area where sniper shootings have been terrifying local residents recently.

Which is why no one in the family is teasing today.

Well, OK. Brent did say that he wasn't sure what concerned him more: the possibility that one of his brothers might be injured, or the possibility that one of them might be the sniper.

But he was teasing when he said that. At least, I'm pretty sure he was.

For the most part, however, the teasing has stopped for now. Which is kind of awkward I mean, it's how they communicate. But how do you tease about people in your community being killed? How do you make smart-aleck comments when you're nervous about going to the store, or buying gas, or sending your children to school? How do you make jokes when members of your family are frightened, and there doesn't seem to be anything you can do about it?

Many years ago my family went through a frightening, uncertain time when my eldest brother, Bud, was missing. I remember walking through fields near where his truck had been found, searching for . . . well, I wasn't exactly sure what we were searching for. Were we searching for clues? Were we searching for Bud's trail? Or were we searching for Bud?

Friends and family members came from all around to help. For days we worked with the authorities, but no trace could be found. Finally, when every stone had been turned and every possibility that we could think of had been explored, everyone went home and we were left to consider the possibilities including the possibility that we would never know what happened.

I remember going with my Dad to take two brothers to the airport. They were going home after long days of searching. After dropping them off, Dad and I drove to our home in silence. After pulling into our garage, Dad turned the car off and sat for a moment, staring at the steering wheel. For the first time in my life, I understood what helplessness felt like.

At last I spoke: "Does this mean we're giving up?"

He shook his head slowly. "No," he said. "It just means we're turning it over to God."

We had prayed constantly during Bud's absence. We prayed for success in our searching. We prayed that the police would be guided in their efforts.

We prayed for a softening of the heart of whoever it was who might have taken Bud. But from that point on, we just prayed for Bud and that somehow, some way he would be returned to us.

Our prayers were answered in a miraculous way, and he was returned to us, safe and sound. Ever since then I've known that there is always something you can do, even when it appears that there is nothing you can do. Which is why we're praying for our family, and for all who live in fear wherever they may be. We're praying for those who are working so hard to protect them. We're praying for the perpetrators of such evil, that their hearts might be softened. We're just . . . praying.

And we're not teasing.

# # #

--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through