I thought about not writing this — about giving it more time, having our holiday and simply honoring the now-resting and their broken families in silent prayers and tear-filled gazes upon my babies. Tragedy such as Friday’s is hardly touched by mere words; even less is the suffering left in its wake.
But while my heart remains heavy and selfishly prefers to put it off, my conscience won’t allow me the luxury. Much like digging bodies from a mud-slicked mountain or scouting for survivors amidst the rubble of ruins, there is crucial work to be done in the moments following disaster that is best undertaken by those of us whose hearts — though aching — are still in one piece. In this case, the work is not so much physical as internal, though it is no less important in the healing process of a shaken nation, the honoring of the families intimately affected and the assurance that we now move forward with intention and clarity.
Everywhere I turn, there is talk of gun control and of mental health and of the disfunction inherent to each as systems and institutions. I hear automatic weapon sales are on the rise. I’ve read impassioned pleas from mothers raising children they fear are capable of acts similar to Adam’s, yet whose choices for treating their babies range from nonexistent to ineffective to cruelly unjust.
There are those who angrily blame NRA lobbyists for Friday’s nightmare. Meanwhile, terrified parents propose armed gunmen in elementary schools nationwide. Some conservative faith communities even suggest that we have called such a fate down upon ourselves by stirring a vindictive god who is merely expressing his love with a ruler-to-the-wrist reminder that He belongs in schools.
I’ve got my own opinions about each of these subjects, but they hardly matter right now. Personal agendas and heated opinions border on dangerous this early in the aftermath. Kneejerk reactions are the stuff of wars — at best serving to divide us — and hardly ever make for sound policy reform.
What then? What are we to do, as even the most cynical among us seem to stand in solidarity, stating in no uncertain terms that something must be done.
I agree wholeheartedly. Our healthcare system is in need of a total overhaul, the desensitization towards violence among our youth is not helping anything and the fact that the sale of guns is less regulated than say, bread baked in your kitchen speaks of a nation suffering from mislead and confused prioritization.
But my intuition tells me that before we take one more step down the road to reform and recovery, we must each ask ourselves this simple question:
Do I choose to root my reactions in love or in fear?
Fear gives rise to panic, rage, anger, resentment, hatred, worry, cynicism, judgement, and selfishness.
Love births kindness, generosity, peace, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, empathy, understanding, and healing.
Both provide fuel for action, each begets more of the same, and no one gets to make the choice for you.
It’s easier said than done, of course — choosing the latter under any circumstance, much less the mass murder of young children and their teachers. For those of you understandably struggling with any number of fear’s manifestations and needing a nudge back to your truer self, I’ve created a small list of places to focus your attention while you tend the rawest of your wounds, asess your fears and eventually embody the capacity to react based on love and with thoughtful intention.
(Oh, and if you are raging, feel free not to act. You will be contributing more good than you know by choosing first to do no harm.)
“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy