Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I'm Going To Say It Again, Because Our Response To Tragedy Isn't Working

Last week, another mass shooting occurred in San Bernadino, California. As developments unfolded, my Facebook news feed was flooded with news articles, updates, and personal thoughts. Much like what happened after the Paris shootings and the countless similar tragedies, people began moving to their political corners and expressing their feelings on the internet, feelings of sadness, anger, but mostly fear. And, undeniably, outrage.

It’s understandable. As we process these events that keep coming, as the unfathomable becomes commonplace, we are scared, we are angry, we want to point the finger of blame in the right direction, in some direction. I get it, I have felt it. But, we aren’t going to change things by locking ourselves up in fear, wrapped in our own personal ideologies. We aren’t going to change things by staying stuck in an anger that begins to poison the very ideals we hold dear. If we react to this by arguing with each other about gun control, about how authorities handled this, about religion, about “praying for the fill-in-the-blank victims,” about who or what created a culture that has birthed this, then we become part of the problem. 

Yes, we need to educate ourselves, we need to look at our laws and work hard to change them, we need to have those conversations (not those screaming matches) about gun control, and we need to find a way to realize that most of us want the same thing for our world. But, most importantly, we need to start where we are to heal the world. 

I am somebody who believes that change begins with me, with you, as individuals.  We have no control over what other people say or do. We do have control over what we say or do. Instead of spreading anger, in our conversations, both on and offline, what if we get in to action instead? What if we all started setting the example? I volunteer, in my own community, both on a regular basis and for special events. I’m not some saint. I’m not special or great because I do this. But, I show up. I show up and make sandwiches for hungry people in New York City. Or, I show up and organize care packages for homebound people who are elderly or ill. Or, I show up when someone asks if I can help with project xyz, because I am capable of doing it, because it does matter, because that’s how we heal the world. 

It’s beyond overwhelming to confront the issues in our world that have made it possible for mass shootings to become commonplace. Instead of ranting about it or pointing the finger or reposting another article, get in to action, not just in terms of having our voices heard. Those voices are important, but the smaller actions in our own communities are important too. If we did that, the benefits would be immeasurable. Instead of snowballing the anger that fueled these events to begin with, change the conversation, start outside your front door, do something.

What I am saying is not original. And, I have said this myself, both in real life and online, many times before. But, I feel compelled to say these things again now. Take the energy from that anger and fear and put it somewhere good. That’s our only hope of dissipating the strength of terrorism (and terrorism takes many forms) both here and abroad. The bonus- you will feel less paralyzed, you will feel more empowered, you will feel you are part of the solution. 

There are endless ways in which you can be a part of the healing instead of the destruction. If you are unsure of where to start, you can try out Volunteer Match to find out where and how you can help in your community. 

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