Our "Thoughts and Prayers…"

Photo by Carolyn A. Booth/pixabay.com

By Steve Kolb

When my first wife, Virginia, died, I received incredible responses from hundreds of friends, all of which could be encapsulated in the category of "thoughts and prayers." Lots of folks also sat with Virginia during her decline, shared their frequent flyer miles so we could go to medical appointments, came out to sing or play at her service, brought casseroles, gave me grace as I struggled to meet professional obligations, did our yard work for us, and listened while I worked through what could only be called a family catastrophe.

All of these things, including the thoughts and prayers, were (and still are) precious to me. It was a humbling demonstration of love I can never hope to match, though I'm striving to, in my own inadequate way. It was transformative in my life. It was powerful to receive it. I'm forever grateful.

So for the thousands of people who've lost family members to acts of senseless violence in our country, I'm 100% certain they do appreciate every single word of encouragement and support they receive. I bet some atheists even appreciate the solidarity implied in offered prayers.

But violence is not cancer, ALS, a hurricane, or a car crash. The outcome—loss of a loved one—is similar in that respect. But otherwise, it's the opposite: people can control this situation, and choose not to do so, for poorly reasoned, and sometimes selfish goals. And many, in an attempt to maintain political power, provide distorted, dishonest data to support a false narrative about guns, and gun control.

Send thoughts and prayers, if you wish, to families of the dead. They'll receive it well. But let's not pretend that's the sum of what we should be doing.

Send thoughts and prayers, if you wish, to families of the dead. They'll receive it well. But let's not pretend that's the sum of what we should be doing. We've reduced the number of deaths from auto fatalities, lung cancer, and numerous other societal issues, and we can do something about gun violence, too. If we don't, we're responsible for the continued slaughter of our fellow citizens, slaughter we could prevent. There's no moral high ground to be claimed if we stand by and let it happen.

Maybe what we should be saying is, "I'm sorry we didn't do what we could've done to save your loved one. We were blinded to the truth by the lies we embraced that might have spared them this horrible fate. All we have left to offer is our thoughts and prayers."


Steve Kolb lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where he raises sons, advocates for a cure for ALS, and gets paid to play music. He's a kind-hearted soul, unless you put your beverage on the piano.

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