I want to take the opportunity of this post to thank my readers, listeners, and followers for their support on #IStandWithThomasPeters Day on social media this past Thursday. The outpouring of masses and prayers, messages of support, blog posts, etc. was nothing less than astonishing. As I understand it there is not a final number yet, but as of Friday morning the total number of donations more than doubled what we had hoped to raise on Thomas’ behalf, and of course you can still donate! While I would not presume to speak for them, I know that Thomas and his family are overwhelmed and grateful for all that you have done, privately and publicly, to offer encouragement and assistance as his recovery and rehabilitation continue.
I also want to acknowledge and comment on something which some of you experienced, with respect to what we will loosely call “negative feedback”, because you chose to participate in Thursday’s social media day. I know that some of you were rather shocked to receive messages criticizing your support of this effort – messages which were sometimes particularly vitriolic. In reflecting upon this, I think it would be useful to take a step back and understand both the possibilities and the limitations offered by new and social media, in order to understand these sorts of occurrences.
Sometimes we do not think before we hit the Enter button. The relative anonymity of the internet allows us the freedom to choose to express our views in ways which we otherwise might not, if we were called to air them in person, face-to-face. People who disagree may step over the line from legitimate criticism or exchanges of differing views, into something which bears little or no resemblance to a reasoned response; this type of behavior is particularly prevalent among those who do not actually sign their real names to what they post, but choose to remain anonymous or use pseudonyms. Now even though I do sign my name to what I put out there, I daresay I am as guilty of crossing the line at times as anyone else, although it is something I acknowledge that I must continue to work on.
By the same token however, there is no reason to put on blinders and assume that everything on the internet must be sunshine, bacon, and unicorns, any more than this is the case in real life. The fact is that some people are simply bitter, angry, and unpleasant, and they want to make you bitter, angry, and unpleasant also, for the simple reason that misery loves company. These people need our prayers more than they need to be engaged in sparring matches.
Moreover, as much as some may not like to hear it, the online world is a place where arguments are going to occur, precisely because the internet is run by and populated with human beings – well, mostly (not including the spambots). Human beings argue and disagree, sometimes in very harsh terms indeed. Christ had no hesitation in physically throwing the moneychangers out of the Temple while calling them “thieves”, for example, or publicly criticizing his theological opponents with rather harsh language, calling them “hypocrites”, “whitewashed tombs”, “vipers”, etc. He even called St. Peter, the patron saint of those who speak before they think, “Satan” on one very memorable occasion, for missing the point of what He was trying to say.
In daily life and in online life, heated arguments will sometimes occur, which is the price of free will in a free society. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way to keep these disagreements from getting out of hand is not to get down and roll around in the mud with your opponent, but to decide whether it is best to answer their criticism, disarm their attack, or simply ignore them. Over the course of Thursday I saw examples of all three of these approaches, but on the whole people generally chose to ignore the negative and focus on the positive, which in these particular circumstances made sense so that the message was not muddled.
And the message I hope that you take away from #IStandWithThomasPeters Day is an overwhelmingly positive one, one which you will share with others. It is a story about hope and love triumphing over suffering and sorrow, first of all, but it is also one about the powerful good that media can work in the lives of those in need. There was no business or professional organization like the Red Cross or St. Jude’s campaigning on Thomas’ behalf. Rather, a group of his family and friends made it their first priority to work closely together in as coordinated a way as possible, staying focused on the goal. Each used whatever talents they possessed to the best of their ability, and reached out to everyone they could think of to ask for support. The rest was God’s Grace, human compassion, and Thomas and Natalie’s story itself, one which ought to inspire all of us.
We have seen that, as has so often been said over the last few weeks and months, God is good, and that miraculous, amazing things really do happen. Now not only is this very gifted and remarkable fellow going to be able to get the assistance he needs for the next few months of his recovery, but I have seen many of you begin interacting with one another by becoming Twitter followers, Facebook friends, sharing your blog posts with one another, and so on. For everyone involved, it turned out that the fruits of this effort will not just benefit Thomas himself, but all who have witnessed what can result when people of good will are able to reach out and connect with one another.
Thank you again for your generosity, and God bless you!