Hours after the Aurora theater shootings, photos of aspiring sportscaster Jessica Redfield, among other victims, were circulating the internet. Redfield’s final blog post garnered attention throughout the world. It’s a post that reminds us all of the reality of uncertainty, the importance of gratitude, and the amazing gift of life.
Only a little more than a month ago, Jessica had survived a shooting in a Toronto mall. She recalled the “odd feeling” that led her outside the mall only seconds before shots rang out. "I was shown how fragile life was," she later wrote. "I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change.”
Ultimately, Redfield’s brush with death strengthened her gratitude for life. “I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end,” she wrote. “When or where we will breathe our last breath. … I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted.”
Last Friday, Jessica was among the victims of the Aurora theater shooting.
Here in the U.S., many of us were blindsided by the attacks. I know I was. It’s so hard to come to grips with the uncertainty of life, the suddenness of death. When a gunman enters a theater and senselessly destroys lives, we are all forced to confront the not-always-so-obvious reality that our lives are fragile, that our days are numbered, that our future is far from certain.
But this is a reality that is possibly harder to miss throughout much of the developing world, where millions of men, women, and children live with the daily realities of conflict, murder, poverty, slavery, oppression. For many of these individuals, the majority of life evinces uncertainty.
Working at a refugee agency, I am often amazed at how uncertainty has become a way of life for many of the refugees that walk through our doors. They tell me of years of living in limbo in a refugee camp or conflict zone, never knowing if the next moment might hold a bullet to the head – or a ticket to freedom.
For those of us living in homes, not refugee camps, it can be deceptively easy to think that our lives are sometimes secure, and sometimes not. That’s a lie. No matter where I am in the world, security is an illusion, uncertainty is a constant reality, and none of us are in control.
But that’s not a bad thing.
The uncertainty we each experience in life is more than a challenge. It’s a gift. Every day we have the chance to look forward with faith, realizing that the future isn’t guaranteed. And every moment, like Jessica Redfield, we have the chance to choose gratitude, and refuse to take our lives for granted.
"Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings,” Redfield concluded in her blog post. “Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given."
Kristin Wright is a columnist and contributing writer at ReligionToday.com, where she focuses on global human rights and religious freedom issues. Kristin has covered topics such as bride trafficking in North Korea, honor killings in Pakistan, the persecution of members of minority faiths in Iran, and the plight of Syrian refugees. She has visited with religious minorities in Pakistan, worked with children at risk in Mumbai's “Red Light” district, and interviewed individuals on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kristin can be contacted via her website at kristinwright.net or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: July 25, 2012