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A time for vigils

There have been two vigils on campus in as many weeks. The first was a memorial gathering for all those souls lost in the Israel/Hamas war, and then another for 18 dead and 13 wounded in a mass shooting at Lewiston, Maine.

Both vigils were powerful in their simplicity and crystalline perspectives they reflected that violence is a brutal and unwelcome solution to any conflict or concern. Violence begets violence, and the use of violence to settle scores or to solve some problem – ancient or acute – is rarely ever a good solution. Violence begets violence, so the acts of one, or the acts of many, can ignite others to similar actions, to express their anger and frustration in ways intended to hurt and in ways that assure we will live with fear and mistrust in our hearts and our heads. We are pushed inward and apart from each other, and if we aren’t thoughtful, we can let feelings of anxiety and isolation take over, and then, the darkness of violence will have won.

In times like these, we are stronger as a community – a loving, kind, and inextricably linked human community – and we need each other for support, safety, connection, and the warmth of healthy human interaction. Sometimes, we might have to push ourselves to make these connections, to take the risk of being vulnerable or open with someone, but this sort of engagement matters, and it is the basis for all human strength and healing. You can do it individually or in groups or tentatively or by just jumping in, but when you reach out, when you ask for a lifeline, it’s almost certain that someone will reach back and that you will be welcomed for who and what you are.

At the vigil for Lewiston, I met a student who was from Lewiston, and he was with his new friend, a student from Eastport, who had when he heard about the horror 117 miles away from us, immediately sent out a smile and a welcoming hello to this person and they became fast friends. It wasn’t scripted or expected but was an organic display of kindness having an enduring and rippling effect on two people and our community. Both students felt protected and stronger as they faced the uncertainty around them.

At the vigil for the horrible situation unfolding in Israel and Gaza, people gathered to share stories and offer support. It was wonderful to see the many interactions that resulted in people saying let’s get back together or see each other tomorrow. Connections were made, kindnesses extended, and a sense that we are stronger together prevailed.

Dean Robert Dana at the candlelit vigil for victims of the Lewiston shooting on the UMaine campus on Nov. 1. Photo by Liv Schanck

These events can make us sad and angry, frustrated and confused, and not sure of what’s what in our universe, but we can be sure that life is easier when we share our burdens when we ask for and receive support, and when we let the light in and around us shine.

Together, we decry violence and unnecessary bloodshed. As we push on to a future of promise and potential, we can work for peace and justice and maintain every hope for a bright tomorrow.

I’m always here if you need support or just want to chat.

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