The recent events in Paris and now San Bernadino, CA ,and Savannah, GA are just the latest in the string of unthinkable losses that befall us each and every day. Somewhere on the planet someone is experiencing their own horrific trauma. Rest assured, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we all feel it. No one is exempt from these gut-wrenching emotions, not even terrorists.
The mind simply doesn’t want to comprehend these hugely tragic acts of violence–that they are a part of our everyday world.Our collective unacknowledged grief begs for our attention. Violence and hatred find a perfect breeding ground of a denial that separates us from our grief.
The recent horrific events here in America and countless other locations around the world resurrect within me old feelings of anger, powerlessness, fear, and despair. So many questions have been running through my mind. What would I do during a catastrophic event such as this? How can I protect myself and my family? What do I do with my grief, fear, despair and anger over so much tragedy and loss? When will enough be enough?
As I prayed and meditated on these questions, questions that have been troubling me since 9/11, I asked God the following: In the face of senseless destruction how do we keep from being overwhelmed by our fear and grief? What do we do in the face of such evil, an evil that wants only to destroy? How do we deal with a group of people who’s credo is ‘We love death more than you love life.’?
Here is the response that came to me:
“You can start right now by building and strengthening your communities at the most personal level. Develop more intimate relationships with your family, your loved ones and especially your neighbors. Build relationships that embody compassion, kindness, and affirming another’s worth. Learn to resolve conflict with an empathy that includes both the laughter of children and the wisdom of your elders. Create a space of honor, respect and value for all–a place where all benefit just from being there. Comfort each other. Be a witness to another’s pain and grief and help them to bind up their wounds. Create a place where together you can work toward the best and prepare for the worst.
“When you develop your communities in this way there’ll be no room for evil. By developing your relationships and becoming more intimately acquainted with all whom you encounter, you will KNOW when your brother or sister is in trouble. You will know when they become filled with darkness or are being led astray. In creating greater awareness in your communities you can help others become more aware of their needs and their gifts, their capacity for love and the depth of their shame. Of course, you will first have to do the same for yourself.”
Once again I’ve underestimated the power of my prayers. It was crystal clear; my responsibility to my community included a responsibility to myself. I need to work toward the best, but prepare for the worst. I need to comfort and bind up my wounds in order to have the capacity to heal or comfort others. I need to resolve my personal conflicts with offering empathy and kindness to those who show hate. I have no excuses. There’s no reason to throw up my hands in despair declaring, “What can I do?” There’s always a soul to comfort and a spirit to lift, and that includes my own.