I’m not sure about you, but all of this senseless violence has got my head spinning. I just read about the most recent shooting in texas where people of all ages were targeted and killed in a church. It looks like it was a mostly hispanic church although no one is really saying that at the moment. Children were shot, a pregnant woman was shot, and senior members were shot and killed. I have had enough, but I feel helpless. Do I just read it and move on, go and submit my oh so important instagram picture of food, trees, or child. It doesn’t seem right to just read something of this nature and then move on. What advice is out there? How could we respond to these sorts of things and contribute to the good in society rather than the numb or negative?
SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) says that “Incidents of mass violence disturb our collective sense of order and safety, and may even impact those with no personal connections to the event.” So if you are feeling similar to me like you can’t just move on with the day, confusion and sadness are setting in, and a desire to respond awakens, we are not alone nor abnormal. I would even go so far as to say this is a healthy response to hearing this sort of tragedy. Right? It’s good that we feel. And of course we want to keep this from happening again. In fact, it’s a very natural response.
So what are our options from this point? We have heard the news, we have the feelings, and want to respond rather than move on as if it doesn’t affect us.
The truth is that is maybe it is more simple than we think. Maybe we just allow ourselves to be affected… move on, but not as if we were not touched. Take a deep breath send out your positive vibes, prayers and energy and then go on embracing your own life, but differently than before you heard the news. Maybe you could let this news deepen your awareness. Let the moments that follow be filled with compassion for those around you who may be experiencing difficulties. Smile more readily, engage with a passersby a little more openly and effectively. See the people and their faces and allow gratitude for your own life to seep in where you can.
Tragedy shakes us even if we aren’t directly hit. As mentioned above it tampers with our feelings of safety and order. The truth is none of us are exempt from experiencing loss, our own tragedies and difficulties. We can let these events remind us that life is no guarantee and that each moment, each interaction, each hug, kiss, laugh, tear could be it. We can embrace our temporary nature and allow that to push us to live more mindfully more wakeful.
Maybe this is our strongest opportunity at bringing positive change. When we live more fully I believe we live more compassionately. It is when we shift to autopilot and distraction, we engage less, notice less, and become consumed with our gadgets, screens, accomplishments, and keeping up with living, busyness, we are more likely to react in selfish, aggressive, horn honking, road rage, judgement, and anger. This in sometimes small and sometimes large ways adds to the negative, adds to our sense of disconnection with life. Surviving rather than really living. I see this in myself.
So yeah, taking a deep breath and letting the events you hear affect you and your sense of connection as you move on into the rest of your day and life. This could be your way of acknowledging the violence and doing your part in your corner of the world to enhance compassion. By loving those around you well and living with sense of gratitude you can be the change you wish to see.
There is more of course we can do when touched and changed by the stories we hear. We can reach out, send messages of love to those hurting most by this violence. Light a candle in their honor and say a prayer of love and light. Have your children make cards, you can write a letter, send flowers, and tell those affected that even though you don’t know them you love them. That you are so sorry for their loss and that you are sorry for the violence that has forever changed them. Speak love into the space where they have felt hate.
If you have the financial ability maybe you could send money in the hopes that grief therapists and counseling can take place.
Whatever your capacity. Be open. Feel. Don’t be afraid to be affected by that which you hear. We all share this country (and planet) together, and we all want the freedom to be safe, and healthy here with those we love.
We are strong enough to stand with those who are hurting. Strong enough to live compassionately. Strong enough to let these events shape us and affect us for the better. In fact if the violence is going to stop we must do these things.
So I applaud you for feeling, and I encourage you to do something with it. Even if it’s just acknowledging the sadness, confusion and fear these stories bring, and moving on with a deeper sense of being alive, aware and ready to embrace your moments with a larger capacity to love those who will cross your path today- even the guy with the bumper sticker you hate who cuts you off in traffic. Grow the love, and light in your moments today. Lots of love from me today to you all.