A Weekly Column

By Joseph Walker



America is mourning. Again.

More senseless violence has occurred. More innocent lives have been lost. More media time has been devoted to asking questions for which there are no answers: why? What provokes such hateful action? How can we explain it? When will it end?

The guns are sounding with increasing frequency and ferocity. This time it’s Atlanta. Last time it was Littleton. Next time it’ll be . . . where? My home town? Yours?

The scariest thing about the escalating wave of violence that is sweeping across America is that there’s no way to predict where blood will be shed next. The only thing that seems to be certain is that more blood will be shed. Maybe it will be at a market, or a school, or a church, or a drug store. But somewhere, someone will pull a gun, bullets will fly, lives will be lost.

And America will be mourning. Again.

I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m not even sure what the question is. Some say the issue is gun control. Others think it has more to do with self-control. Still others think it is another evidence of the total breakdown of the American family. And then there are those who trace this crisis to high school cliques and other adolescent evidences of man’s ongoing inhumanity to man.

Could be they’re all right. Could be none of them is. Likely, it’s a combination of everything—too many guns, too little personal discipline, too much stress on the family from within and without and not enough human kindness. The pace of life is picking up, and many lives are careening out of control. The world is filled with uncertainty. There’s every reason to fear, and little cause for hope.

And yet, we have to keep hoping. We have to keep believing there are answers that we just haven’t found yet. Hope is what give us the courage to keep trying even when it appears that nothing we try makes a difference. Without hope, we quit. And nobody ever won anything by quitting.

Years ago, Dad and I sat together watching our team play in a college football bowl game. OK, maybe "play" isn’t the right word. They were getting worked. The other team was playing, and having a great time. With just minutes left in the fourth quarter, our team was down by 20 -- and to tell the truth, the game wasn’t really that close. After watching our team be dominated for three quarters plus, there was no reason to believe that anything would change. And so I gave up—which is a nice way of saying I slammed my fist into the couch and said something unprintable.

Thankfully, our team hadn’t lost hope. And neither had Dad. "Don’t worry," he said. "We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em!"

As if on cue, our team scored on a touchdown pass. Then they recovered

an onside kick and scored again. Then they blocked a punt and scored the winning touchdown on a "Hail Mary" pass as time expired. It was a miracle. I was screaming at the improbable, unlikely, almost impossible turn of events. But Dad just laughed. "I told you," he said. "We had ‘em right where we wanted ‘em!"

Of course, the situation we’re facing in our violent world is a little more complicated than a football game, and the stakes are infinitely higher. But the principle is the same: the precious principle of hope. No matter how improbable the situation, no matter how unlikely the scenario for success, almost impossible or not, there’s always hope. We have to believe that, and we have to act on that belief. Because the way I see it, we have the world right where we want it.

Which could very well mean that—hopefully—America won’t have reason to mourn. Again.

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--- (c) 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 and