In the wake of a tragedy, we all grieve. We're all outraged, and we all want to talk about it. But after a couple days, we lose interest. We move on. We may feel powerless, or we may just become engrossed in the minutiae of our own lives. We can feel weary and we can feel overwhelmed by the violence, but what we can't do is stop caring until the next horrific massacre.
What can we do in our normal lives from one day to another that honors those who have died due to gun violence? I keep hearing about love and how it's stronger than hate, but what does that mean? What are we doing to ensure that love conquers hate? I'm a little tired of the rhetoric, and after the most deadly massacre in our nation’s history since Wounded Knee, I want to know what we're actually doing. Love is useless if it isn’t put into action; it's nothing more than a platitude we use to ameliorate our fears.
We all comfort ourselves with the thought that we will raise our children to be different, but is that actually enough? Not raising a murderer is a good place to start, and teaching our kids that all people have value and worth is important. Promoting non-violence and social justice have enormous value. But some people don't do that.
We have to acknowledge that some parents teach their children to hate. There are parents who inculcate their children with shame and fear. Other parents abuse their children, and for those kids violence might become a way of life. Some parents have a child who has an organic imbalance, and they feel ill equipped to address it.
What are we doing for those children? How are we alleviating the suffering of traumatized children or ensuring that all young people have access to the resources they need? When a child is suffering, that's all of our child, and if we choose to look away we're betraying our obligation. We talk about what it’s like to raise our own children in the absence of a village, but I’m guessing ours aren't the ones who fall through the cracks without it. What becomes of marginalized children if they aren't part of a village?
Try to see the light in every living being and share your appreciation for the unique value they bring to the world
Babies aren't born murderers. Nor does a healthy, well-loved person begin killing without warning. What happens in a person's life between birth and when they decide to pick up a gun? Because children are valued so little in our culture, this is not being discussed. We talk about fundamentalism, we talk about gun control, and we talk about mental health. What we don’t seem to be discussing is how children are treated and what we can all do to support families in raising compassionate, resilient kids.
To do our part to interrupt violence, we must think beyond our own families. If we truly value empathy and wish for our country to be a safer, more peaceful place to live, we all must participate in its improvement. There are so many ways to promote compassion and peace in your community. For example, you can:
- Become a foster parent
- Become a therapist
- Become a social worker
- Become a nurse
- Become a teacher or an aid in a classroom
- Be a mentor
- Volunteer for the Boy's and Girl's Club
- Show empathy even to those who show you hate in return
- Be a SMART reader
- Vote for local politicians who support social services and gun safetfy
- Befriend a mama or papa who is struggling
- Become a coach
- If you have a religious belief, actively represent it in a way that promotes peace and compassion, not fundamentalism
- Try to see the light in every living being and share your appreciation for the unique value they bring to the world
- Volunteer in your child's classroom. Be aware of the children in your child's class who are suffering or showing signs of aggression. Be kind to them. Find small ways to let them know they have worth, that they are people of value. Rather than seeing them as difficult, be curious about what their lives are like. Show them compassion.
Even if our actions feel insignificant, or like a drop of hope in a sea of despair, we're making a difference. We may give one child hope that she is worthy of being loved. We may inspire one young man to choose to channel the pain he has experienced to help others rather than inflict more pain. We might be the support a parent needs to seek help. Our capacity for empathy may evoke the same in another. An interaction which may feel insignificant to us could very well be the one that inspires a shift from violence to peace. If love is a verb, let’s get off our asses and start loving like our lives depend on it.