Words are all I have to combat a tragedy. So what do I do when an event leaves me speechless?
Well, I borrow from someone else.
Where there is life, there is hope, to quote Tolkien.
We, as a nation, should mourn the loss of life and the violence in a place that should be as safe and, in it’s own way, sacred as any church or temple. A school should be a sanctuary. The families of those killed in Newton, Connecticut and entire community are woeful, and when I pray for their comfort and healing, I know that it will be a long painful progress.
But as I was watching the news and reading Twitter yesterday, I eventually had to shut it all down, because the negative energy was becoming a like a two-ton stone on my heart. What was the point of living? This country is a cesspit. Shootings are getting more violent, frequent and horrible. The media seemed whipped into a frenzy of horror and despair.
But despair is different than mourning. Despair makes you lay down under the weight of your troubles. Despair makes you value live less, not more. Despair tears down. Despair is the feeling that life is not worth living.
When we despair, we don’t look for solutions, we look for outs. We wail and say “If only!” When we despair, we deny there is still good in the world.
Despair is evil’s victory.
A terrible, awful, tragic thing has happened. Tragic things have happened before, and they will happen again.
I am not being dismissive of the depth of this and other recent tragedies. Certainly we’re in a cycle of anger and hatred and intolerance. Look at our recent elections, where platforms are formed less on the issues and more on “us” vs. “them.” And because of the 24/7 media and social media, this negativity, hatred, and despair escalate at a logarithmic scale.
In the face of tragedy, we need to reject despair and focus on hope and healing.
- Turn down the volume of the media. Spend some time in prayer, meditation, reading, or whatever centers you and quiets the frenzied noise of doom and gloom and hate-speak.
- Write to your congressperson. Like voting, it seems a small, tiny thing, but these are the things that add up.
- Spread hope. The next time some horrible story comes across you social media stream, don’t repost it saying “I can’t believe how terrible this is!” Repost stories of ordinary people doing good things, of random acts of kindness, or ideas of how you and your friends can help keep whatever terrible thing from happening again.
- Take the high road. Resist the urge to mock, snark or make fun of someone who is different than you. If you have an argument, and it is an appropriate forum for it, post it tactfully with facts to back it up.
- Stand up against bad guys. Don’t let little evils go unchallenged, or they become big ones.
- Volunteer. Do something for someone other than yourself. Focus on a community larger than yourself. Focus on the future.
- Practice being kind. You never know what small act of kindness or love will have a large effect.
I’m not saying that if someone was kind to the shooter in Connecticut (or the one in Denver earlier this year, or at Virginia Tech in 2007) then his rampage wouldn’t have happened. Maybe, when the whole story comes out, we’ll see the path clearly in retrospect. But chances are we won’t.
Hope is not about wishing we could change the past. It’s about bettering the future.
Don’t think because you are young, or just one person, or a starving student with no money to throw around that you can’t make great changes in the world. The little things we do affect our whole environment. Yes, we need concrete changes in the world. We need peace, and better regulation of firearms and better access to mental health care.
But we also need a culture of hope and love and compassion so that we can come together to heal, help, and change the equation.
Little pebbles make far-reaching ripples. And great things have small beginnings.
Don’t just hold onto hope in the face of tragedy. Spread it around you. Like love, hope increases when you pass it along.
My hope, and prayer, for you my friends and readers, is that you and your families are safe and well, and that you will feel loved and protected through this season.