In the church I attend, populated largely by people who might describe themselves as left-leaning and politically aware, the prayers have for months included a prayer for the families of American soldiers who died that week. The names of the soldiers are read with appropriate, sometimes moving, solemnity. Inevitably those names trigger empathetic thoughts: "David—that's my brother's name." "I wonder if Kathryn's parents called her Katie." "William has the same last name as my college roommate."
As the names are read I try to imagine each of them and their sorrowing families, holding them in that moment of spoken prayer as brothers and sisters whose sufferings touch us all.
Marilyn McEntyre is professor of medical humanities at the Joint Medical Program of the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco, and is author of What’s in a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause.