Just like everyone else I woke on Sunday morning to the horrific news of the shootings in Orlando. I was scheduled that day to talk at church about the effects of trauma on the brain. That morning I got to feel it firsthand.
I watched the news with tears dripping onto my face. “How does this keep happening?” I cried. My heart ached for the people whose lives were lost and the family and friends left behind to feel the overwhelming emptiness of that loss. And then there were the rest of us watching behind our screens, shocked, angry, bewildered, deeply saddened.
I am someone who is constantly trying to make sense of the madness of this world. I don’t know if I am ever successful. And yet I feel compelled to try. I don’t know if my voice has anything new to offer to this tragedy. And yet I feel compelled to try.
I have noticed that after these terrible tragedies most people respond in two ways: despair or numbness. I certainly understand both. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the state of our world, to feel it is beyond changing, that there is no hope for it, to just give up in despair. It is tempting to feel numb, to just go about our lives as if nothing happened, an attempt to hold onto sanity in world that feels completely unsafe.
But what if there were a third option? Helen Keller said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something…I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
What if we take the time to figure out what our “something” is? What if we send up prayers, not just for comfort, but also for guidance, asking God the question, “What is my part? How can I contribute to the wholeness and healing of this situation and this world?” What if we wait for the answer and believe that whatever it is, even if it seems small to us, it will be a valuable contribution to the healing of this earth? Certainly we will still grieve, but we will grieve with hope instead of despair.
How can I still have hope? Because for every person who walks into a building set to destroy the lives of those in that room, I know many others who love fiercely.
I know people who stop their cars to save turtles from the road, who buy extra food at the store to give to the hungry, who volunteer their time to build houses for those without one, who sit beside people who are dying and hold their hands, who speak up for those whose voices are ignored, who share organs from their body to save the life of another, who sneak friends out of abusive homes and into safety, who use their talents, their skills, their work to send love into the world, who cry and pray for the lives of complete strangers, who truly believe that no matter what our differences are, there is room for all of us at the table, that we are all loved and valued by the Divine, that we are all one.
How could I possibly give up on a world where that much love exists?
All of us have a part to play. Some of us will become leaders in this fight against hatred and violence. Others will spend time teaching our children that every life is valuable, that all people are worthy of love. Some will donate money, send up prayers, or share words of condolences for the people of Orlando and others who suffer.
We all have our own personal brand of healing and love in this world. It is up to us to discern what that gift is and be willing to share it. We all have something to contribute to this world in need of great healing. Let us “not refuse to do something” that we can do.