On Monday, October 23, 2023 I began class with a P.S.A. for the St. Ignatius College Prep Bowling Club. As the moderator, I wanted my students to know that they were welcome to join the club's inaugural event of the year and why they should. I asked them, What are the virtues of bowling? My seniors said it was fun and friendly competition that doesn't require a ton of skill Another said it's an affordable activity. Still another recognized that bowling is a multi-generational sport. Good input. I added that it is an ideal sport for cold weather climates; warm ones too (e.g. Washington DC in August!). Bowling is largely without bias—meaning— a judge or referee doesn't factor into fair play. It is gender inclusive and can accommodate for all shapes and sizes. In short, bowling is a great way for our community to come together.And that's exactly what happened all across America this past week, except that one ended in utter tragedy as the site of the thirty-sixth mass shooting of the year.
In Daly City, CA ten students and I met at the Classic Bowling Center for two games. In that time two sophomores and eight seniors bowled, ate pizza and even watched some Monday Night football together (Go Niners!). We talked a little strategy and scoring, and a whole lot of school, service and sports. Our time was cut short because the Monday night bowling league was about to commence. The club president thanked everyone for showing up and we made plans for our holiday bowl in December. Ugly Christmas sweater or shirt required.
As I exited the alley, I noticed the shared shirts worn by teams in the league. Men and women, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s were warming up, having a beer, greeting their teammates and the competition. There was a buzz in the air, spares to pick up and strikes to knock down. Only one man has his picture hanging on the wall. Jerry Yee 300 on 10/18/21.
This experience—the images, sounds and smells of the bowling alley—the energy and excitement made hearing the news about the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine that much more unbearable. Though we are across the country and it took place two days later, the fact that Robert Card "unleashed a barrage of bullets on the bowling event at Just-in-Time Recreation, where he killed seven people" is harrowing. It is utterly tragic. This is our America.
|A woman is hugged by a man at the reunification center at Auburn Middle School, in Auburn, Maine, after shootings in Lewiston on Wednesday.|
It was supposed to be a night of fun competition.
A group of young people gathered at a bowling alley in Lewiston on Wednesday evening for youth league matches. Four miles away, members of a cornhole team for deaf people hosted an evening of games.
But before long, the revelry was interrupted by gunfire.
“They’re just innocent people out for a night of bowling,” said Kim McConville, whose cousin and his 14-year-old son were killed at the bowling alley. “This was a children’s event. Who expects a shooter to go into a children’s event?”
One need not be a political scientist or a Harvard student to have heard about or read Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.
The truth of the matter is no one needs to bowl alone—on Monday nights or Wednesday nights, in times of tragedy or times of reconciliation. Whether its through a high school club, a new league, a call from an old friend or an outing with your family, we can come together to bowl, to build and sustain community. We simply have no choice, we must take ownership for ourselves and for one another. The stakes are just too high: life and death. Gun violence is a community problem. It is a sign of the collapse of our community. How might putting an end to it lead to our revival?
Prayer: Let the Shooting End by Sisters of Mercy
God, our hearts are broken with pain at the senseless deaths caused by gun violence. Families mourn, children live in fear, and some in our nation respond by arming themselves with more guns with greater capacity to end life. Our disconnection and alienation has caused some to turn to guns for protection and safety. We ask that you touch our hearts with your love, heal our brokenness, and turn us away from violence toward peace. Help us to transform our own hearts and to seek peaceful ways of resolving our differences. Let our hands reach out and connect with those who feel alone, those who live in fear, and those suffering from mental illness. Let our voices be raised asking our legislators to enact gun laws to protect all in our society, especially those most vulnerable. Let our pens write messages demanding change while also scripting words of hope and transformation. We ask this in the name of the God who desires that we live together in peace. Amen