This past Monday, I had an unusual evening off, so I took up an offer from someone who repeatedly has asked me to come to her group’s meeting. It was one of those things I’ve always wanted to attend, but always had something — kid obligations, work obligations, etc. — that kept me from coming.

Our community had been hurting. Three Fridays ago, a 9-year-old was killed and her mother injured in a shooting as they were heading to a family member’s house.

The Tuesday right after the shooting, a hurricane swept through town. While my house was lucky, others were not. The hurricane spawned 15 tornadoes, and most powerful and deadliest one was right across the bridge from our town.

Two people were killed and 14 people were injured. Some people who live in the decimated trailer park work in my community or have family who lives here. While it happened across the water, it still impacted us.

The following Friday — a week after the 9-year-old was killed — a vigil was held. I brought my two boys — 12 and 9 years old — to the event, because it was something I felt they needed to see. They needed to see the community support this family, see people they kinda know, like the mayor, school principal and other and listen to the words they say. They needed to see the impact of gun violence, especially when it involves a child.

I don’t know if it sank in, but they did ask some questions afterward.

So, Monday, I went to this group’s meeting with a heavy heart. It was a prayer group that was founded after a 16-year-old was shot and killed. They pray once of month for peace, love and unity for the community, and for whatever else is on their mind.

About 20 of us gathered in a circle, wearing face covering and trying to be as close to 6 feet apart as we could without getting in the way of parking lot traffic.

Something was at work in that circle. I always considered myself a spiritual person. I wanted to be a priest at one point, but find my version of religion to be a blended mix of thing based on what I’ve learned throughout life. While I practice Christianity, I have learned a lot through Buddhism and other religions.

For 38 minutes — yes, I timed it — we prayed silently and aloud, sang and just stood in the stillness. We recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison, which to me was exciting. There were all these religious backgrounds in this group, yet we were united in this one act of being together and in this one prayer.

Sending prayer and positive thoughts doesn’t seem like much when posting it on social media. But it can make someone’s day knowing that someone else is thinking about them.

Prayer can also be the spark that ignites action, a movement that changes everything. I felt that what we were doing in that circle would be a spark.

When we were given a chance to pray in silence too things automatically came to mind “rest” and “if not me, then who …”

Even though my work hours have been cut due to the pandemic, I put in the same amount of hours working at home and the office. I work to keep a garden alive so we have fresh foods. I work to get rid of the clutter that seems to plague my house. I work on this blog and my other blog, because I like doing this more than my real work some days.

“If not me, then who …” is the motto of the Travis Manion Foundation. I became familiar with it through my work with veterans organizations. Travis said that phrase often and died in the line of duty.

During this pandemic and all the craziness, I find the phrase to be an anchor. If I don’t chance my eating habits, who will? If I don’t take an opportunity to change certain narratives around finances, fitness and food that have been ingrained in my family, who will? If I don’t do (fill in the blank), who will?

With the pandemic and election season upon us, many have been quick to anger, point fingers and just be on edge.

The world needs us to be strong in our convictions and our resolve to stand above the fray. I don’t mean to call people out on their B.S. just to do it. I mean to do it in such as way that you can open someone’s eyes and heart to other ideas.

We need to give grace to ourselves and to others. Give each other the same benefit of a doubt we extend to ourselves. Maybe someone’s motives aren’t political, they are just making the decision based on what facts they have. Maybe it is as political and whatever I believe. Maybe we’re all wrong and the world will explode tomorrow.

We also need to love one another if we’re going to make it out of this pandemic in one piece.

In Hamilton the musical, George Washington tells Alexander Hamilton, “Dying is easy, young man, living is hard.”

Dying is physically dying, but is can also be a spiritual or mental death. Addictions can cause that death, as would working all the time. Being depressed and not having the will to take steps to help yourself, can also be a kind of death.

Existing rather than living.

Living is hard. Finding strength, grace and love can be hard as well. It doesn’t have to be. For me, it took 44 years and a pandemic to be able to get out of the negative and to smile more. Every once in a while, life kicks my butt to keep me humble, but overall, I can say I am content where I’m at.

I have a plan and know where I’m headed now. It’s not that I’m content to stay in my current position. I’m content in knowing that I’m here at this point in my life and if I keep working at it, I’ll get over there. Wherever “there” is, I’m ready to greet it with arms wide open.