Our little community here in Cincinnati has had a lot to deal with the last few years. We are a small town in the middle of a major city with about 8,000 close-knit residents. Just as I write this, I remember a high school student being killed in a car accident about 10 years ago on graduation night. We became the center of an international incident as Otto Warmbier was a high school graduate and the awful tragedy that happened with his death. Then a few weeks ago, a 2005 HS gratuate, Kaia Grant, was killed in the line of duty serving as a police officer just a few miles away from here. There are more things in between all of this including the many personal tragedies and situations that do not make the local, national, or world news.
But the other day, my oldest sent me a picture of another “message stone” that we found. This one was not in the park where the others were but just at the base of a tree right along the street. The stone was painted red and “Hope” was written upon it. When we went out later, he showed me where the stone was and I was struck by the connection between that stone at the base of the tree and the blue ribbon tied around the tree. The ribbon was tied along with many others as Officer Grant’s funeral procession went through the town last weekend. (And now nearly a week later, many of those ribbons continue to be there). Similar ribbons were tied on trees the day that Otto Warmbier was brought back to the United States.
These actions feel like a release for people. Some of the situations that have taken place here (and the many others for people) are ones where it is hard to find a way to respond – we want to do something, anything, to be able to express our love, our care, our grief. But we feel limited in what we feel can make a difference. So rocks are painted, words written, ribbons tied, prayers offered, love extended, presence given. These are releases for us that allow us to do something when we feel nothing can really be done.