between our steps 04 24 19 doubleThere is a good reason that I was oblivious to the bombings in Sri Lanka until we turned on BBC news the middle of the afternoon on Sunday. I had a sunrise service at Big Bay and another service at 10:30. Before dawn, I got up and read over my notes, made sure I had all the things I needed. I left home at ten to seven.

Right after that time beside still waters, I rushed back to the church to help put on breakfast. A bit of a chat over hot cross buns, and I headed upstairs to make sure everything was in order for the service. It wasn't quite, so I got busy putting everything in place.

In that service, the children's conversation was focussed on a lovely wooden box that I was given in Sri Lanka. Later, when I heard what had happened that day in Sri Lanka, I felt shock. Horror. Worry. Fear. And I wondered if others in the church wondered why I did not speak of the terrible loss of life and the worry for that island.

Being oblivious to unfolding tragedy has happened to me before on a Sunday morning. I tend to be really focussed. The day of the mine disaster in Nova Scotia, someone asked for prayers for the trapped miners and their families and community. They told me enough to add their request to the prayers, but it was the first I had heard of the disaster. After that, I decided to turn on the news during my drive to at least know what had happened important in the world. I often forget.

The oblivion of Sunday morning for me is understandable. And for all of us, we can't know everything important happening in our world. We can't hold all the suffering of everyone in our hearts. However, the thought haunting me this week is that sometimes what we pay attention to is conditioned by values that negate or at least ignore people on the margins.

When Notre Dame caught fire, pictures of the flames appeared in my Facebook feed almost immediately. The news hit all the television channels. The terrible destruction was communicated to us by all forms of media. In the follow-up, people have raised tons of money to restore it.

The next day, social media included a note that while Notre Dame burned, there was a fire at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. It turned out to be a small blaze, but the danger had been ignored while Notre Dame burned. At least, a note of "we were worried, but the fire didn't spread" would have been appropriate.

Even more important, in the two weeks before the blaze in Paris, three African-American churches were intentionally burned to the ground in Louisiana. The culprit was apprehended. As well as charged with arson, he is charged with hate crimes. He targeted black churches.

Did you know about those fires? I didn't. Only the Notre Dame fire and the small blaze in Jerusalem caught my attention.

An Instagram influencer, Erikca Hart, took note of this disparity in coverage. They expressed shock and sadness at the Notre Dame fire, then remembered the Louisiana blazes, realized that the main media had not covered them. They asked, "Do you need to check where your sadness/shock lies?"

This is the question for me. Accidental ignorance like mine on a busy focussed Sunday morning is understandable. And some news doesn't come our way as the networks choose what they will show. But I know the kind of choices the networks and newspaper conglomerates make. I know I have to go looking for what they don't bother to cover. When I don't take initiative, my lack of knowledge is less excusable.

Within the network of those Louisiana churches, news spread fast. A GoFundMe campaign has raised two million dollars to rebuild them. On Easter Sunday, they prayed for the alleged racist who burned their churches. They are practicing what makes for a different society.

And I am alert again to how much goes on that I am oblivious to. There's no way I can contain empathy for all the suffering, but I need to be aware of the lenses that determine what I see. That awareness can help crack open a window to see some of what gets hidden.

Cathy Hird lives on the shore of Georgian Bay


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