One week. Seven days. Boy oh boy. A lot can happen in seven days.
In less than one week there have been two mass shootings. Yesterday a 21-year-old man killed 10 people in Boulder, Colorado, at a supermarket. Five days earlier, a 21-year-old man in Atlanta killed 8 people, 6 of whom were Asian women.
Modern times have gotten so frightening that I’m afraid to read the news. What horrors am I going to read about seven days from now?
Sometimes I worry about this world. I worry about where it’s going. I worry it’s falling apart because that’s what everyone keeps saying. They all say the universe is coming apart. Mankind is turning inward on himself. It’s enough to make you break out into shingles.
Which is why I am writing this to you. Because although this planet sometimes seems screwed up, I want you to know about a few other things that happened within the last seven days.
Take Mike. Mike is a 63-year-old man who grew up working various labor jobs. He has always been a blue-collar man with dirt under his fingernails.
His life reads like a tragedy in some places. Although, had his story ever been made into a literal book, Mike wouldn’t have been able to read it. Because Mike couldn’t read.
When Mike was around age 10, his father died. Mike quit school to work in his uncle’s restaurant. He had never been a strong reader to begin with. Eventually he forgot grammar-school stuff altogether.
The technological world advanced without him. In his 63 years, Mike had never owned a computer, never owned a smartphone, never sent an email, never penned a letter, never read his own junk mail. Reading-wise, Mike could do little more than sign his name and read everyday words.
But last year, Mike began taking reading lessons with a private tutor. And last Monday (less than seven days ago) Mike had three major benchmarks occur in his life. All on the same day.
Mike (1) finished reading his first 800-page novel, (2) bought his first smartphone, and (3) typed his first email to his daughter with his thumbs.
Something else that also happened last week? A dog named Silas finally made it home. I’ll explain.
Silas had been missing for two days. And if you think two days doesn’t sound like a long time for a dog to go missing, you’re not a dog owner.
Silas ran off one evening for no explainable reason. Terry, his owner, canvassed her neighborhood but found nothing. Her hopes were shattered when her neighbor called to report a dog that looked like Silas lying in the highway.
But days later, someone phoned Terry from the next county. A guy named Stew found Silas on his back porch, eating bird food. Stew had taken the stray to the vet where the dog’s microchip was scanned. It was Silas.
By the time Terry arrived, the people at the vet’s office had given Silas a bath with fancy perfumed shampoo—no charge.
Terry is a widow. Silas is what she refers to as, “The only friend I have left.”
Chances are you’ll never read a news story about Silas. Neither will you read about how Janell was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune illness a few years ago and was told she was dying.
Janell’s disease was supposed to kill her quickly. And it certainly looked that way. Her doctors were not optimistic; doctors told her to get her affairs in order.
So Janell did what dying people do. She started doling out heirloom furniture to her children, writing letters to be read upon her death, dividing her finances.
Meanwhile, her adult kids did something, too. Namely, they started praying.
Now, before you quit reading because you think I’m getting all hooky-spooky spiritual, you should know Janell’s adult children have never stepped foot in a church building. In fact, they have never attended any event more spiritual than a WWE professional wrestling match.
“Our mother didn’t raise us in church,” one of her children said. “My mother just wasn’t spiritual. Actually, I used to think Mom was an atheist.”
But herein lies the beauty of this story. The woman’s children had no idea how to pray, but they gave it a shot anyway.
Janell’s daughter, Anna, says she spent entire weeks sitting silently in her spare bedroom.
“I kinda sat there, like people do in yoga,” she told me over the phone. “I asked Whatever-Is-Up-There to please help me. I begged and begged, ‘Help my mom, please, whatever you are.’”
The thing is, Janell’s children’s requests must have worked. Doctors still have no explanation for her recovery, which was made official this week. Doctors don’t understand what happened, or how she started gaining weight. They don’t know why her tests suddenly showed up negative. None of it makes logical sense.
But then that’s the best part about life itself. Things don’t make sense. They aren’t supposed to. I wish I could explain to you exactly what I mean by those words, but my explanation wouldn’t make any sense, either.
All I can say is that when people tell you the world is bursting apart; when life seems like a morbid riddle with no solution; when you find that you cannot read the news without shedding peach-sized tears, do not give up. Not yet.
Because a lot can happen in seven days.