By Eric J. Hall
After the mass shooting in a Texas church in November, my young son asked me if that could happen in our church. I’m sure many other children asked their parents the same question. How do we answer that question? I read of a church in Georgia that hired three security guards for Sunday services; one stationed in the parking lot, one directing traffic and another at the front door. Another congregation asked church members with military or law enforcement background, all carrying weapons, to sit in various parts of the church as protection during services. Following the Texas shooting, a megachurch with 43,000 members and modern day security and cameras, offered to hold a seminar on church security. More than 250 ministers and lay leaders signed up, according to an article in The New York Times.
The sense of anxiety that prompted my son’s question is widespread after the most recent mass shootings in this country. That anxiety is magnified, of course, by the endless news cycles on radio, television, newspapers and social media. The more we keep watching and reading about the tragedies, the more it affects us. We start looking at strangers suspiciously. Is that speeding truck going to plow into a crowd? No one can be certain if, when, or where, another shooting or terror attach will occur. However, there have been so many over the past years that we assume it will happen again—somewhere--and we increase our own anxiety by wondering about it.
As mentioned in a previous blog, self-care is a spiritual need we all have. We live in troubled times and in addition to our daily jobs and routines, our hearts and minds are often stressed by the continuous news cycle about violence around the world. In an age of hyper-vigilance, it is crucial that we take a time out and connect with our spiritual core. Any quiet contemplation can be a form of spiritual care, whether we practice tai chi or sit in a park or garden and, to use a cliché, smell the roses. Whatever it is, spiritual care should become an everyday practice, not just on whatever day of the week is subscribed by a particular faith ceremony.
We also need to talk openly about our anxiety, to identify the emotions we are feeling: fear, anger, depression or all of the above. We should be looking for ways to counterbalance the anxiety by finding pleasure and love with our families and friends. We can’t deny a mass shooting or terror attack will happen where we are, but we can make every effort to cherish what we have and live to the fullest.
My son’s question went unanswered in that I could not say it would never happen here. I tried to reassure him that I would keep him safe, wherever he was. He needs to know I have his back. As parents we can help our children transition from such anxiety by showing them we love and protect them. Think about all the people you love and trust and be with them. Helping others will also help ourselves transfer from anxiety to positive feelings.