The courage to trust

Earlier this week, the United States woke up to news that three Jewish schoolchildren and one adult had been gunned down in France. At the time this editorial was written, the shooter had not yet been caught, but it was suspected that it was the same man who shot two Muslim soldiers and a French Caribbean soldier to death last week.

My first instinct when I saw the story in the morning news ticker in the Atrium was to write yet another impassioned argument for the importance of interfaith dialogue or about why we have a duty to responsibly engage the world–and this sad incident should serve as another example of why those things are important. But I think that there’s an underlying force at work in this story that merits our attention. Officials in France have yet to confirm the identity of the murderer, yes, and thus have yet to confirm a motivation for the murders–and yet they appear to be hate crimes.

It may be impossible to know what causes hatred, or why it motivates some people to act in certain ways–but doubtlessly, fear of the other, of the unknown, has a lot to do with it.

It is easy to trust that which is familiar to us because it is known, predictable, comfortable. But lack of trust leads to fear which, as Star Wars wisely and memorably reminds us, can lead to hatred.

Do human beings make themselves vulnerable by placing their trust in the unknown? Of course. But can we ever move past our fear and hatred without daring to take that first step and blindly place our faith in the unfamiliar? Of course not. If we take this frightening first step, we are likely to be hurt on occasion; but we are also far more likely to discover deeper richness in humankind by finding that most of those who hold our newfound trust were probably deserving of it all along. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.”

Last month, a 17-year-old boy was shot to death in a gated community in Florida because a neighborhood watchman allegedly believed he was a threat. The boy was armed only with a bag of skittles and an ice tea that he had bought at a convenience store. How many innocent lives have been lost in similar accidents simply because somebody lacked trust in the other and acted on their fear instead?

Yes, trust takes courage. It takes the audacity to let down our guards with the hope that it is for the betterment of humanity, and it takes the generosity to continue trusting even when that trust is betrayed.


Peace homes,

Mary Beenken, Editor-in-Chief

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