Whenever I go out for a walk with my family, my son leads the way. He recently turned 2, and he knows exactly how to get to the park.
When we arrived at the corner park this Monday, we noticed a large group assembled there. It looked like a family gathering of some kind. But while I pushed Paul on the swings, I noticed a local TV news reporter standing nearby. He trained his camera on the group that we had noticed on our way in. Then I noticed the crowd was passing around candles and setting up a teddy bear next to the tree.
I knew instantly it must be a vigil for Lawrence Giusto. Early Sunday morning, the 20-year-old man had been gunned down outside his home by a group of as many as 11 people. As I write this, seven people have been arrested—most of them teenagers.
A newspaper reporter I recognized confirmed that this was a vigil for Giusto. I thought briefly about leaving to be out of their way, but then a thought came to my mind: “Mourn with those that mourn.” I didn’t know whether my presence would be of any comfort to anyone there, but I knew that being there would be infinitely better than walking away.
As the vigil began, everyone at the park gathered around the tree. Serena Giusto, the victim’s aunt, asked the crowd to join her in the Lord’s prayer, which she began slowly and thoughtfully.
“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”
As I repeated the prayer, my mind leaped forward to words words that this grieving aunt would be praying later on:
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
I have read and prayed the Lord’s prayer countless times. I have studied it in church, thought it in my heart, recited it with my high school soccer team, and patterned my personal prayers after it. But the Lord’s Prayer took on new meaning as I prayed it alongside a group of complete strangers lead by a woman who is forgiving those who trespassed against her family and who senses a great need for the kingdom of God to come and deliver her family and her community from evil.
She implored her friends, family, and neighbors to make their community safer. “This is not just about my nephew,” she said. “It’s about everyone suffering a loss from violence.”
She challenged everyone present to be active in the lives of the children around them, even those who are not their own children. “If I see one of your children in the street being harmed, I will not let it stand,” she said.
I have long believed that in many cases, God uses us to answer other people’s prayers. “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs,” said Spencer W. Kimball. “Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.”
That service has to go far beyond helping our friends move and cutting the grass for someone who just had surgery. I wondered: How can God use me to respond to the prayers of people who are praying the Lord’s prayer: “Deliver us from evil.” How can I help them?
I’m already trying to be a good father who cares about my son. I take him on walks. Tonight I made pancakes with him. At night, I read stories to him and sing him to sleep. I try to set an example of the proper way to treat others. I hope to scrape together a college fund for him.
But is that enough? Statistically speaking, based on his skin color, family situation, and neighborhood, he will be less likely than Lawrence Giusto or his assailants to be kill or be killed. Not everyone is as lucky as he is. What can I do to help those who are less fortunate?
I thought about Sterling Wilder. Fifteen years ago, he started the Jubilee Family Development Center in Lynchburg so he could be a father to the fatherless. He opens his home for that purpose, too, and he has raised many foster children. Two years ago, my church honored him as one recipient of the Family Values Award, recognizing his work to build strong families. I don’t know that we could ever measure the lives that he has touched. I don’t know that I can follow his exact example, but I can learn from that and reach out somehow.
I want the world to be safer for my son. But I want it to be safer for your son, too. This might mean stepping out and speaking up when your child is in danger—morally or physically—and it might mean you doing the same for my son. Let’s each work to help these communities that need deliverance from evil.
I hope to find something I can do to help those in the community who are less fortunate than I. I look forward to telling you about it—and hearing what you have done, too.