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Healing Fruit from the Tree of Life

by The Rev. Dr. Graham Standish, PhD, MSW, MA, MDiv Executive Director, Samaritan Counseling, Guidance, Consulting

Visit Graham's website: and his blog:

in Presbyterians Today.

It’s incredibly hard to know how to respond to the tragic events from Saturday’s Tree of Life #synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill. The word “tragic” can’t capture our feelings. It’s demoralizing. It’s even harder if you have a healer’s heart.

How do we help people heal when it feels like acts of devastating hatred are spreading?

At the Pitt football game on Saturday they had a moment of silence for the victims, and I couldn’t stop stinging tears from welling up. It’s so frustrating to feel powerless in the face of such spreading hatred and violence.

I’ve been a healer for most of my life. Early in my career I was as a therapist in a psychiatric hospital with children and teens, trying to help them heal from the pain of broken families and lives. As a pastor, I saw being a healer as my primary role. I hoped to help heal people spiritually, mentally, and physically. #Healing prayer was always a major part of my #ministry.

Now as executive director of Samaritan I lead an incredible team of healers who wade into the deep pain of people’s lives to help them heal from hidden wounds. Our therapists and staff are just as devastated as you and I are. They’ve committed their lives to healing, and most of them are more skilled at it than I am.

I’ve been struggling all weekend with what to say and how to respond to our wounds, especially from Samaritan’s perspective. I have some thoughts I want to share with you:

1. How do we respond to Saturday’s shooting? By being healers. I always gain strength from Samaritan’s DNA, which is the Good Samaritan story. The Samaritan cared for the wounded man regardless of the possible consequences. He tended to a man’s wounds in a dangerous place where he could have been assaulted. He then took him to safety, taking it upon himself to pay for his care. Whatever our feelings are, it’s important to find ways to be healers who help healing grow.

2. We all are the antidote to hate. Hate is a toxin, and acts of hate tend to spread hate like a virus. Holding onto hate, resentment, and anger poisons our minds and souls. We can be an antidote and a vaccine that spreads healing. When you feel the toxicity of hate overwhelming you, look for opportunities to spread kindness and compassion.

3. Look to what you can do to make things better rather than railing against what you can’t do. Look to what transforms bitter feelings into something better.

4. Remember that Samaritan is here for you as you struggle to find healing.

Our #therapists are healers who are trained to help people heal from wounds. And make no mistake, all of us have been wounded by what seems to be a constant flow of hate-inspired violence in this country. Our therapists struggle with this just as you do, yet they are also trained to help people heal from these wounds, and even wounds that may be coming in the future.

5. Look for what’s right in the world, not just what’s wrong. I recently read an account from someone who said he had an angel experience. He asked the angel how God could allow so much bad to happen. The angel gently said to him, “We see things from a different perspective. We see the world’s evil, but we know that all the evil acts in the world are only this much.” The angel’s finger and thumb were held in a pinch several centimeters apart. “We see all the world’s small self-sacrificing acts of kindness, compassion, and love happening in every moment of every day all around the world, and they are this much.” With that the angel’s arms spread out wide, stretching even further than arms should. What do I take from this? Whether or not you believe in angels, the comment is true. Look at the outpouring of kindness, compassion, and love in the wake of Saturday’s shooting. This is how the hatred will be overcome, and you are part of that angel-arms-wide-apart response.

However else you are called to respond, I want to encourage you to respond to the shootings with faith, hope, kindness, compassion, and love. Join us in being healers. And if you need help with this know that we are a place of healing for you.

Dr. Standish has written publicly about overcoming our culture’s divisions in the past. Please read his article on overcoming our divisions in his August 2017 op-ed in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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