There is so much to be said on the subject of humility, but today it's on my mind because of the events that we people of Toulouse and district have suffered over the last few weeks. Seemingly random shootings culminated in terrible deaths at a school gate, and a frightening siege which ended with the gunman's death. Family, bloggers and other friends have sent me emails, left comments and made calls - I told our pastor, who lives near the gunman's flat, that people around the world have been praying for us all - thank you so much. And please keep praying, because it isn't all over, despite the death of the killer.
Humility came to mind because of the varied reactions people have expressed about the whole situation. Politicians knew they had to be humble when faced with the death of innocents. The presidential candidates seemed dignified and human, as they put aside their squabbles and recognised that the grief of families and communities had to come first.
Once the worst was over, the politicians slipped back a little - I'm afraid it's only to be expected. But Facebook was also a bit scary, with lots of ordinary Toulousains getting pretty hot under the collar about how things should have been handled better.
The religious communities seemed to be more able to speak peace at this point. I copied the most simple, heartfelt prayer from a local French friend on my Thursday post, below. I've been looking now for some of the beautiful, noble words that were said at the time of the killings at the Jewish school - Jews and Muslims both spoke so simply and with such humanity. But here's the strange thing: the news articles where I read those words have mainly been deleted. Plenty of articles in English and French about the events and their repercussions, but the gentle thoughts of leaders and ordinary people aren't on the web any more. Humble thoughts and good news don't last as long as grouching and political analysis, perhaps.
One thing I do know is that people who spend more time forgiving the little things are better practiced at forgiving the big things. This is what the poor vicar whose family was torn apart in the vicarage attack back in the 80s said - I'll never forget it. He said something like: "Forgiveness had become a daily habit, so that when I needed to forgive this huge wrong, it still came naturally". His daughter, who was raped in the attack, has also said: "It's not whether you can or can't forgive, it's whether you will or won't". She went on: "Of course, sometimes I thought it might be quite nice to be full of hatred and revenge. But I think it creates a barrier and you're the one who gets damaged in the end. So, although it makes you vulnerable, forgiving is actually a release. I don't think I'd be here today without my Christian faith. That's what got me through."
I recognise a desire for humility and forgiveness in people responding to the Toulouse killings - of course they don't have to be Christian to value those virtues. But I also recognise in myself something that Nancy said in response to my last post: "It is so difficult to be strong; and to be stronger than darkness is only possible with The Light."