Two tragic and heartbreaking events have gained world-wide attention in the past few weeks. Both are shocking and ended the lives of innocent people and forever changed the lives of many families: a shooting at a Tops Grocery Store in Buffalo, New York and at a grade school in Uvalde, Texas.
We are saddened, frightened, enraged, torn, and confused. Our emotions are jumbled and often conflicted. This is normal and expected.
We want a solution and we want someone or something to blame.
➡️Unfortunately, these were far from the only violent acts to happen recently. Each day, individuals and families deal with tragedy, violence and mayhem. There is the rising crime wave across our country, including Houston, rising suicide rates, rising incidences of domestic violence, acts of human trafficking are climbing, psychotic breakdowns are increasing in young people, first-responders being overwhelmed, individuals dealing with the loss of children and family members, those facing financial crisis: the list goes on and on.
Much of the response we see gets tangled up in politics, partisan ideologies, soapbox issues and disagreements of opinions over legislation and a host of other topics. The one thing we all should agree on is that violence is unacceptable.
As I watched the news last night and saw the TV screen filled with pictures of those beautiful children and teachers who lost their lives and I thought of those in New York who were out running errands and picking up groceries, I thought about how many of their family members were at home sitting across from an empty seat at their table, lying in a bed without their spouse beside them, facing a child’s room with an empty bed. I thought of the deafening silence because of the missing voices, the gaping hole left by the loved ones’ missing presence in the home and the deep unimaginable sorrow they all must be going through.
Our hearts ache for the loss of life and their loved ones. Our souls cry out prayers to God that our minds cannot even put into words.
So what do we do? I wish I had the easy answer, but I don’t. I wish there was an easy answer, but there isn’t. It’s complex, nuanced, and multifaceted. Much of what we must do is unpopular. There are difficult conversations that must be had and our actions must not be focused on one thing. While we are addressing the structural safety of schools, we must look at how law enforcement responds to crisis situations, while we address that issue we need to see how our society identifies, treats, and cares for those experiencing mental illness and mental psychotic crisis events. We need to address our cultural moral decline, our cultural obsession with violence, the breakdown of the family unit, parenting and educational resources, social services for low income families and individuals, violent weapon access, and so many other pieces to this enormously complex puzzle.
One of my fears is that we are growing numb to human loss and suffering. Statistics are just numbers and those numbers of crime victims, violence victims, deaths, suicides, broken families, mental health needs, disaster victims, and other tragic circumstances keep going up – yet behind each digit is a person, a human being. That is where we need to start. We must respect human life and treat all lives with dignity. We must teach our children to do the same. This is our starting point to address this incredibly complex issue.
No single response can address the many sources that evoke evil choices and behaviors of violence against others and we have many areas that should be looked at closely and the difficult questions and conversations must be addressed.
I suppose a silver lining could be: We do have resources to begin healing and assets we can use to begin to address these challenges. Our faith is one. Prayer unites us and calls upon God to step in and provide His wisdom and His guidance and reminds us that we cannot solve our problems on our own. We need to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Our community partners who care for one another and want the best for one another is another. We need to cling to our values to respect human life, human dignity, of right and wrong, of strong and healthy families, of personal responsibility and the value of hard work. We need to support those in our communities, support responsible parenthood, uphold behaviors that support healthy values and not be afraid to help others when they need it. Silence and indifference are not options. Parents need support to stand up daily to confront the endless messages that adversely influence their children. Let us cling to value and practice generosity, responsibility, forgiveness, and concern for others.
Much is being done, but more is required. We need more heroes. Real heroes are those committed to the service of others, those who stand against the tide, those who recognize the importance of values, character, and virtue. Those who support families, marriage, and parenthood. Let us focus our attention and energies and resources on helping one another, helping families, helping neighbors overcome destructive pressures, providing moral support, overcome tragedies, loss, economic hardships, provide support to assist others to leave behind lives of addiction, overcome self-destructive behaviors and build better relationships. We need to encourage a commitment to civility and respect.
Sounds easy? Obviously not. The biggest challenge here is the fact that we have to really turn our examination inward. How do we choose generosity over selfishness and choose strengthening our own family, our own relationships and our own interactions with others over our own pursuit to acquire and self ambition. All the bad in our society is overcome day by day, choice by choice, person by person. Might we all make a conscious effort to contribute to the greater good today and each day after.
Might we be a community of faith respecting and protecting all human life, teaching right from wrong, educating our children likewise, serving those who are hurt, healing those who are wounded, building a community that works together, strengthening our families, and focusing on each other rather than ourselves.
Let us each be the “somebody” to stand in the gap and do the “something” that needs to be done.