Every once in a while in the ministry – not often – someone tells you that something you said or did made a real difference. Recently, for example, I got an email from Ian Johnstone reminding me that I did the memorial service for his father, David.
An editor in New York, David was in San Francisco to meet with some of his authors. On the way back to his hotel, he was shot by a 16 year-old would-be robber, using one of the 500,000 guns stolen every year in this country. Ian wrote:
“I don’t think I actually remember the eulogy you gave at my dad’s funeral (I was 10 years old at the time), but I’ve read the transcript from his service hundreds of times and your words have made a big impact in my life. I started a tech-focused nonprofit addressing gun violence about a year ago (www.gunxgun.org), and I almost always quote you as part of the inspiration when I speak about it publicly.”
David was paralyzed by his gun wound. I went to see him in the hospital, and then in rehab. He was talking about not wanting revenge on his young assailant, but rather help for him. And about wanting to be a good father and husband as a paraplegic. Then he threw a blot clot and died.
At the memorial, I told an Islamic story about the Prophet Mohammed. A man approached him and said, “My mother has died. What shall I do for the good of her soul?”
The Prophet thought of the dryness of the land where they stood and replied, “Dig a well, so the thirsty may have water to drink. Then say to yourself, “This I have done for the sake of my mother.”
Ian’s mother, Tina, was the first to respond to his piece of ancient wisdom for the healing of grief. Along with other women affected by the 40,000+ gun deaths that take place every year in our nation, she helped to organize the first “Million Mom March Against Gun Violence,” descending on Washington, D.C., where they placed thousands of pairs of empty shoes – men’s, women’s, children’s – around the edge of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. Then they took them to the offices of Senators and Representatives who refuse to pass sensible, sane gun regulations.
Despite the Newtown, CT, school shooting, however, even basic gun legislation has proven impossible to obtain. So Ian has developed Gun by Gun (www.gunxgun.org). I hope you will listen to the interview on his website, and consider passing the word and supporting him. We’re having lunch soon. I promised him that I would let you know.