Stand Up and Listen

So. The recent news. People in our world seem to be making awful amounts of horrendous choices, and there's a whole lot I can say about that. And about the amazing wonderfulness and light that stems from such darkness. But I'm not going to address either sides here. Right now, I'm a parent, and I'm navigating through the news with my children.

We talk about choices, actions, right-and-wrong. We talk about heroes, and "looking for the helpers" (thank you Fred Rogers for your wise words). We talk about sadness and loss. And then we're silent for a while because there don't seem to be enough words.

Later, my eleven-year-old son came up to me. "Mom," he said, "How come when someone starts feeling like they want to do something like that guy did ... how come they don't go to someone and tell them? Why don't they say what they're feeling, so someone can help them, and then they won't do it?"

And two things struck me. One: My little guy came up with this all on his own. I was impressed his brain worked it out, as it's not anything I've actively taught--that, if you're feeling something dangerous inside, you can look for help before you carry it through. And two: My little guy asked a good question with a sad answer. One that I hadn't really thought about before.

Telling somebody doesn't always work. Not everyone recognizes their desires are crossing a line. Not everyone has a safe place to go when their thoughts turn dark and poisonous. Not everyone has guidance from a stable mind, family, or community. Not everyone has a voice that people hear, or want to hear. And when you can't find peace in your own head, can't hear your own conscience say, "Um, NO," and you have no outside supports or restraints, there's nothing holding you back. And how scary and deadly can those results be? And who ultimately pays the price? The slain and the survivors, their families, the community, and the world as a whole.

Which brings me to this thought.

If we can reach out to our neighbors and the random people who make up our communities, children and adults alike ... if we can open ourselves to them, get to know them, perhaps even make friends of them, we will have a better understanding of each other. When we understand more about each other, we harbor less prejudice and fear and hold fewer assumptions. When that occurs, we can accept our differences. Because, guess what? Everyone is different and that's how we're meant to be. And if we don't hate or distrust each other for our differences, people might not feel the urge to kill because of them. And we might just be the support someone needs if their thoughts are turning dark. We might just be enough of a light to guide that person to the help he or she needs. And we might be able to band together to prevent a crisis from even happening.

We've all heard it: "Be the change." Now is the time to put it into play. Now. Be the person who takes this step. Others will follow. Lead with integrity, kindness, and an open mind. Show an eleven-year-old there are plenty of people in the community who are willing to listen and guide. That there are people to turn to if fear or doubt or anger come creeping in. Show him we can get along, even if we're from different backgrounds or hold different beliefs. Show him that random acts of kindness are uplifting for everyone. Show him that humanity is worth everything. Because it is-- and it's time that we stand up, stand together, and act like it.