When my friend texted me the news that Notre Dame was burning, I was surprised by my reaction. I was surprised by the level of my grief.
Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to get to go to Paris. But it wasn’t my favorite city. I found it less memorable than other places I visited on that trip. And we didn’t even go inside Notre Dame, just walked past and took a few pictures.
And yet, watching the video of the flames made me cry.
A writer, Chuck Wendig, said something on Twitter that really resonated for me. He said, “Hard not to see it both for the loss of itself and what history it carries and also as a symbol for the fragility of things and the dangers and anxieties of our era.”
It’s important to give ourselves grace when it comes to grief. There will always be those who question why people will feel sad over buildings or ideas or even fictional characters. But these things do mean something. And that’s ok.
However, at the same time, I think what’s happening with Notre Dame is yet another glimpse into privilege and a lack of perspective. Because as of writing this, there has already been 1 billion dollars donated to the rebuilding of the cathedral. And I’m sure there will be more.
I understand. We all had an emotional reaction, and people with money want to make their mark on something they see as important.
But the Catholic Church already has a lot of money and resources. There are many other institutions and organizations that could really use some of that billion dollars. A building is never going to be worth more than human lives.
Our grief is valid. But we shouldn’t forget that even our grief can have bias.