“It is true that we are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating own lives.”– Thomas Merton
The statistics surrounding gun violence is terrifying and the staggering frequency of the news reports has put us all on edge, perhaps more than we even realize. We are living in a world that is feeding us pain, paranoia, hurt, and fear which often makes us feel sad, angry, helpless, and small. You might have even begun to turn off the TV or not click on that headline because you simply can’t digest these reports anymore. But let’s take a moment to truly consider what that is doing to and for you.
Here we are, living in a media-filled world and if they want you to hear their stories– you will. You might turn off your TV but what about the magazine headlines at the grocery store? Or the empathetic Instagram posts on your feeds? These stories are always reaching you, planting themselves into your minds, growing in your heart, and feeding the unrest that we have all come to embody as we walk through our daily routines.
Life carries on, as it should, but it influences us in ways we don’t even realize. Do you ever find yourself wondering if a certain person’s bag looks strange while strolling through the airport? Have you ever had that quickening in your heart when a stranger seems to be standing too close? When we don’t like what we see, it is easy to become a victim to it and act as if we didn’t create it. But if we keep choosing blame and fear then aren’t we just giving away our power to change it?
This an immensely tough concept that feels so huge and so out of reach that it is easy to become paralyzed by the acceptance of our inability to help. We may feel as though any action we take will be too small, and that nothing will become of it.
So let’s start where we stand: with ourselves. Let’s make a plan to recognize that feeling of great unrest as an understandable moment of straying from love. We might not have been in that movie theatre or that school or that shopping center; we might not have been anywhere near it, but it is affecting us and we are suffering. Instead of feeling small and closing ourselves off, maybe we could begin to understand that our suffering is the presence of love, and our desire is to see the world as repaired.
What then do we do with this? It is important to incorporate action– mindful action. Perhaps it’s as simple as turning off the TV and crying or going for a run. Take this time to move forward with your feelings. Take a moment to step back and consider if you are being authentic or if you are reacting in a way that keeps you walking through life, receiving pain, and blaming others. By working within a framework that is based on love and not suffering, would you do anything different? Perhaps the run or the tears have truly fulfilled what you need, and perhaps they have not. Maybe, next time, you’ll decide to do something more.
Perhaps you decide to educate yourself on gun control laws. If that makes you feel better but still isn’t enough you may decide to discuss gun violence with friends or peers in order to start igniting more conversation. You could eventually organize a protest, fundraise, or even run for office.
It could be that in order to reach the truth of what truly makes sense to you is simply through doing more each time. None of these are wrong or too small if authentic.
We must accept that we cannot do everything and that we may not ever be able to erase all of the pain. But doing nothing is not an option. We must start with ourselves and just do something… no matter how big or small.