Staying ‘nooga strong

Photo by Nikki Hampstead
Photo by Nikki Hampstead

For close to two weeks now, my mind and our city have been fixed on tragedies unforeseen, lives lost due to the heinous acts of one person. Somberness has set over our sleepy town as fallen soldiers are laid to rest; prayers have been prayed, vigils held, signs made. Billboards share encouraging messages, radio stations salute our soldiers. The members of our community have come together in solidarity. And among the many words spoken, one anthem seems to stand out:

We are ‘nooga strong.

We’ve seen people come out in droves to give blood. Thousands have donated money and time to support the families of our service men, slain in the line of duty. Musicians and artists have used their skills to memorialize these heroes. Hundreds have lined roads throughout our communities to show respect for those who protect our soil from foes, foreign and domestic.

We are ‘nooga strong.

In the midst of all our strength, though, sorrow lingers. In the crevices of our city fear, hostility, bitterness grows. Yes, in the corners of our community, hearts still break, tears still flow and questions remain unanswered.

So, pastors, keep preaching the truth in love and provide hope and healing to others. Business leaders, continue to encourage employees to get involved in the community and provide ways for them to serve others. Political leaders, keep representing the hearts of those blessed to live in our town.

And, fellow Chattanoogans, let’s keep aching for friends and neighbors in times of need. Extend respect and well-wishes to those who are less fortunate. Let’s show compassion to our friends grieving loss. Let’s weep the same for our neighbors further south still reeling in response to a tragic theater shooting. And let’s continue to pray, hearts broken, for the injustice happening every hour, every minute around the world.

It may seem daunting, but maybe by sharing random acts of kindness, or simply caring for one another day-to-day we can be ‘nooga strong, stay ‘nooga strong.

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