I’m not married and I don’t have kids of my own. But I am an aunt to five cute littles who live outside of Chicago with their mom and dad. Not far from their home is a major city-center plagued by violence. In September, 58 people were killed, many gunned down. Year to date, Chicago has seen 539 homicides.
The one-week old news from Las Vegas, that 58 people were killed, 489 wounded by a single shooter is terrible and dis-heartening. Our country continues scrambling to answer the seemingly forever elusive ‘why’ questions.
I was at Columbine on April 20, 1999. I knew the victims and I know the survivors. It was a tragedy so horrific and extreme, the nation committed that it could never happen again. President Clinton met with us a month after our tragedy and shared that a kid in a Georgia school brought a gun and shot someone earlier that same day. Our hearts dropped. Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Orlando and others in-between illustrate a sense of out-doing the last. It’s wrong and it hurts us all when these incidents transpire.
As a mass shooting survivor, emerging from the physical loss, psychological residue and emotional trauma, I do know about resilience. I also know that tragedy creates a ripe opportunity for people to come together, to serve, to look to God for strength and love beyond our own human capacity. His strength is freely given when we look to Him, ask and willingly receive His help.
Still, we seek to implement solutions, to try and stop bad incidents from happening again. We revisit gun laws, mental health treatments, technology and safety policies, engage in un-informed and biased shouting matches on ‘news’ programs, and we think of and pray for the victims.
Is this helping? Of course we need to continue enhancing and improving each of these respective areas – they need not be minimized in importance. Respectful collaboration and sincere ideas will always lead to positive change. I wonder though, are we not falling in the trap of treating the symptom rather than curing the cause? Are we focusing on the right problem? And as it is realized, are we individually willing to accept and act on our part of the solution?
Current narratives and sentiment from both main stream and social media blame the sick and lonely perpetrator, Trump, police brutality, broken gun laws, kneeling for the national anthem, terrorism, North Korea, the mental health crisis and opioid epidemic, and a host of other scapegoats. Just reading these words can stir up strong emotional responses - likely because they are rooted in a lot of anger. I reject this. We can do better and here’s how.
Replace Anger with Love
Grateful for her efforts, my sister-in-law regularly blogs so that family can see what she and her kids are up to. A recent post seemed to reflect quite well the problem facing our nation and outline a solution:
“I keep thinking lately how angry the world seems. Last night there was a news story about how often policemen are called to fast food places because of fights. They showed video of people punching each other, of customers throwing food in workers faces because it didn't come fast enough. Then I wake up to anger in my own home, little kid disagreements over toys or television time. Then I hear about a massive shooting down in Vegas, all by one man. SO. MUCH. ANGER.’
‘I was reading in the scriptures and this verse stuck out at me: "And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people." The LOVE OF GOD did dwell in their hearts. I can only imagine a world where the love of God is in everyone's hearts! I hope and pray for that day. I pray that through my small acts of kindness and service that others will feel the love of God. I can't change the whole world, but I can change my small world around me, one person at a time, starting with my family.”
Individually, we have a tremendous influence and ability to consider, understand and control our emotions. Counseling and medication is available when we need help. We can then respond in ways that are loving and respectful to ourselves, our families and our neighbors.
Immediately, as we approach ourselves and others in respectful and sincere ways, we’ll feel a sense of peace and strength. Think about the magnifying effect this approach would have with healing our nation. This isn’t to say bad shiz won’t still happen, but we will absolutely have built up resilience and capacity to endure, lift and help others when the need arises.