Be the Change You Wish to See in the World

Can I see another’s woe, and not be in sorrow too? Can I see another’s grief, and not seek for kind relief? 
William Blake

These roses were given to me on the fourth anniversary of the day I met Sandee. I was thrilled to receive them and took a photo to mark the occasion, December 14th. Little did I know that date would be the one which would shake a nation to its core with the killing of so many innocents in a Connecticut school.

As I heard the news at work, getting ever worse with each update, I could not stop myself from crying at my desk. The last time I felt that way… my heart pounding in my ears, my throat constricting from holding back tears and sobs, my stomach sinking… was September 11, 2001. The disbelief, the horror unfolding before my eyes as the true nature of the brutality was revealed.

So many of us were seeking whys and hows in the news reports as they poured forth, but no matter what “motive” is finally decided upon, I know it can’t be comprehended by those of us who know mercy and who care about life and who have the power to love. For whatever “reason” is given to explains acts of brutality… nature or nurture, religious extremism, jealousy, greed, mental illness, hatred… it will never make sense to us.

I think we (or at least I do) try to figure these things out so that we feel like we have some sense of control over avoiding it. “If I can avoid the crazy people, I’ll be okay. If I stay out of bad neighborhoods, I’ll be okay.” And so on. I think this kind of act shakes us so much because it hit the heart of where innocence lives, first grade children in a classroom at Christmastime. The only thing I can think of that comes close is the killing of four little girls after Sunday School in a church in Birmingham. Evil men doing evil deeds. Their minds warped by hatred for people whose skin was a different color.

In this case, was it hatred? Was it brain chemistry gone awry? Was it drug interactions? Again, the shooter’s motive doesn’t matter, because we will never be able to understand and say “Oh, yes, NOW, I get it.” Because there is never a reason to shoot children in school. Never. Ever.

Whatever his home life is discovered to be, we will never have the whole story. We all know that families can look one way to the world while having a totally different reality behind closed doors. And add to that the closed doors of the shooter’s mind… it’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma. And I’ll be willing to bet that his actions made perfect sense to him, and that’s all the green flag he needed.

It’s hard to feel powerless to help alleviate the pain of these poor family members. It’s difficult to know that any of us could be alive or dead at the whim of a madman. Even those who say that armed citizens might have taken him down ignore the element of surprise that allows so much carnage in the chaos. It’s frustrating to watch our politicians struggle to make good and fair decisions regarding mental health and gun control. So many strong emotions surface after tragedies like this.

I’ve often said that I can’t do much to change big issues and big problems, but I can do something. My favorite quote is from Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” More than ever, I will seek to perform random acts of kindness and hope that it spreads outward. I urge you to join me, and I urge you to challenge others to join you too. It might not make a huge difference, but it will make at least a difference to those on whom you bless with kindness.

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