12.16.2012

Responding to Tragedy

The families of victims grieve near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. A heavily armed gunman opened fire on school children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, killing at least 26 people, including 20 children, in the latest in a series of shooting rampages that have tormented the United States this year.     REUTERS/Adrees Latif   (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
What a maelstrom of emotions this school shooting has elicited.  Here are my thoughts on responding to tragedy:

(1) Cry. We medicate ourselves with food, busyness, entertainment because we're afraid of feeling, and we're afraid of feeling because we're afraid of crying.  But life makes you cry sometimes, or it should.  So we should cry.

(2) Be angry. As a parent, as an American, and as a human being, I am angry about what happened, angry about what was taken, angry about what is left.

(3) Examine yourself.  There is such a thing as gradients of evil. But what we ourselves often commit, against one another and our children, while less of an evil, is still an evil.  Let's be reminded of the good and evil we can do for one another and against our children, and choose anew to always do good.

(4) Pray. Unspeakable loss can bring us to a place of unbelief.  Or it can bring us to a place of desperate belief.  I choose not to turn away, but rather to get on my knees.  God is bigger and better than all of us.  I trust Him to avenge and heal where others cannot.

(5) Debate. I realize some think now an inappropriate time to talk politics and policy.  I respectfully disagree.  The reality of the matter is that such times as these are when the right amount of attention is focused on an issue to actually talk about it and move on it with the urgency and importance that it is due.

(6) Be open-minded.  However, there is a difference between arguing with an open mind and slinging insults at "the other side."  Gun control, violence in media, and mental health care provision are incredibly complex and nuanced subjects.  I concede that there are ignorant participants in these debates.  But the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people who push for one side or the other have valid arguments, and we'd do better if raised our points without vilifying those who disagree with them.

(7) Mind your circles.  Who knows when we or one of our colleagues will lose it?  You may argue there's no way you'd commit murder and mayhem; I am more sober about my own vulnerabilities and that of those I know.  Keep an eye out for when you might need to get help, or get your friend some help, before things escalate.

(8) Grow your circles.  If we all watch ourselves and our networks, still there will be some who slip through the cracks.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  Busy as we are, we should be open to reaching out to a new face.  We may never know when a simple gesture - a smile, a handshake, a warm conversation - lifts someone from out of their abyss.

(9) Cherish.  Living every day as if it is your last is, contrary to what Steve Jobs says, not always the best way to go about your business.  But there is truth in needing to cherish each moment, each relationship, each interaction.  Though we carry on with sadness from those we have lost, we carry on with others who we still have, and so we ought to do so with grateful hearts.

(10) Cry some more.  Gosh, this is just so sad.  So we should be sad.  Because it is part of what it means to be a human.  Jesus wept, too, at the loss of human life, so I know He weeps with us as we weep.  And I weep with those who weep in Connecticut.






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