I drive by the Holiday Motel every week. It’s on a street in Kansas City that’s rough, to say it nicely. And happens to be a street I live near with my family.
Whenever I drive by, I pray. I pray for the people I see going into her bowels. I know drugs and prostitution are rampant in the motel. I pray, and sometimes I don’t know what to pray. But when I drive by, I wonder about the stories of the people. What happened in their lives that they’d find themselves in The Holiday Motel. Which I’m guessing is no “holiday.”
This is not judgment. I know people who are prostitutes and they didn’t choose their vocation. It chose them because of the abuse and neglect they experienced as young people. If a different option and opportunity presented itself, they would be out. Everyone has a story.
Today, I heard of another shooting in Thousands Oaks, California. A seemingly safe and calm place. But here we are again, 11 dead. A man with apparent PTSD from the military shot up a bunch of young people hanging out in a country bar.
When I think about the Holiday Motel and the rampant shootings and political nonsense in our country, I think about humans, and the human element. We can talk about gun laws (important), we can talk about education (important), and we can talk about politics, sometimes important. But what about the human element? What C.S. Lewis calls first things:
“Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”
— C. S. Lewis
First things are loving God and people. Our first knee-jerk reaction is to go to politics and solutions and anger when someone shoots another person. These are second things.
First things are the human element. What happened in the life of a man that would gun down innocent people? Did anyone know of his struggles and dark night of the soul? Did he have friends and family to walk with (I’m not justifying his behavior)?
Why are people racist and angry? Who kills their wife and young children and shoves them in an oil barrel?
We want change in our world, and yet, we don’t want to love the people right in front of us. The families and neighbors who live next door, go to our kids schools, and image bearers in our churches and institutions.
Second things have become first things.
First things is about hearing the stories of others, entering their pain, meeting their needs, and not making judgements as a first response.
First things is about sacrificing our time, money, and energy for the benefits of others. In a country that majors on second things, lets become a first thing people.