My friend Beth sent me this e-mail last week:
“….you know, I read Wayne Dyer’s stuff and believe in the power of intention. I have watched the movies on the law of attraction and what the bleep. But how can all those ‘man controls his world’ concepts begin to explain a milkman tying up those little Amish girls and executing them. How did those little Amish girls attract that to themselves? How do children in Dafur ‘intend’ for those kinds of things to happen? Where then do these laws apply? Or is it just more snake oil?”

I didn’t respond to Beth for a while, because I don’t know what I believe anymore. I do believe in the principles of attraction and intention. I believe we can influence our destiny and research shows that people who believe they can do things are more likely to succeed. And, conversely, people who believe they will fail find ways to sabotage their success. People who believe they will have pain after surgery actually require more post-operative analgesics. But influencing one’s destiny is different than determining it, and there are limits to how much control we have over our lives; some things cannot be explained.

There are times I wake up and believe everything in the world is connected. We live in an interrelated universe of quantum principles where the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Hawaii can cause a tidal wave in Thailand; and even when the cosmic connections are not obvious, they are simply waiting to be discovered.

Then there are those times I wake up to greet a day with stories of the Amish school tragedy, the brutalized child-soldiers in Africa, or the starving children in Dafur, and I think nothing is connected. Stuff happens . . . you happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and you get nailed and the “laws” of attraction and intention can’t be evoked. The world is not your oyster waiting to be plucked by good intentions, but rather an accident waiting to happen. We don’t attract airplanes into office buildings, bombs in public buildings, or crazy killers in schoolrooms; they are random events.

I watched the TV coverage of the horror in Lancaster County and saw the family members of the victims going to the murderer’s funeral. I watched the bearded men in their wide-brimmed hats and women in long black dresses, riding in their horse-drawn buggies to attend his service and start a fund for his family. These plain folk, leading a technology-resistant life in a community of shared faith, were clip-clopping past the school where a couple of weeks ago those kids without laptops or electricity sang every morning to start the day. I cried at the senseless killing and at the profundity of their beliefs. This act of forgiveness toward his wife and children is a living testimony to the substance of their beliefs: all rests in the hands of God. In this simple act, I find myself believing again that maybe with intention we can create a world of peace.

Yesterday, ten days after the shootings at the West Nickel Mines Amish School, they tore down the bloodstained buildings and obliterated all traces where the five girls were killed. The Amish planted it with grass seed to make it a pasture, saying any kind of memorial would be too showy. Today I woke up thinking that, as long as that grass grows, I will be reminded not of bad things that happen or why, but rather how, in spite of them, people can come together in forgiveness. This gives me hope.