There is solace to be found in the fact that billions and billions of people on this planet live together and around each other with no violence whatsoever. That solace is fragile, though, easily shattered by news of rampaging, deadly violence from very small corners of the world.
The Alabama shooter, 27-year-old Michael McLendon, is said to have quit his job just a few days before killing nine people, including his mother and eventually himself, on Tuesday. The dead also include the wife and child of local Sheriff’s Deputy Josh Myers.
Winnenden’s shooter, Tim Kretschmer, was just seventeen years old. He killed sixteen people today, among them ten children, aged fourteen to fifteen, and three teachers. Kretschmer was killed by police in Wendlingen, 40km/24mi from where he started.
We hope that it wouldn’t take drastic action on someone else’s part to bring about action in our own lives, that we would act with kindness and compassion most days with most people, especially those within our families, but that is not often the case.
We can take a few moments now to be grateful for who we are, for who is in our life, and for what we have. It’s as good a time as any to actively show our love and appreciation for our family and friends, and to extend regard to our neighbors and co-workers. It’s equally important that we not let our feelings and efforts wane as this news ages in our hearts and minds.
Along the trail of every violent act are stark reminders that we, all 6.7 billion of us, are not as disconnected from each other as we like to think we are. News from across the nation and around the world can hang heavy on our hearts and bring us to tears.
All of us have known, at one time or another, how it feels to be frightened, our hearts pounding out of our chests, lost with no idea where to go next. We know loss, grief, and hopelessness. We know the abject despair of feeling unloved, refused, rejected, and alone.
We all need regard, touch, and even the most passing and unfamiliar reminder that we count, that we are not alone, and that we mean something to someone. Neglect is so easy. When we have so much going on in our own lives, it can be just as easily practiced without guilt or remorse.
Then something happens. Something reminds us, “It could’ve been me and mine.” Yes, it could’ve been. It wasn’t — so what will we do with this time and the opportunities we still have?
It takes less effort to ignore, put off, and withdraw. It often takes more effort to smile at someone (reminding them of what it looks like, and us how it feels), to listen to them (reminding both of us that we are social creatures, not objects in a void), and to touch them on the hand, arm, shoulder, or face (a reminder that we both are alive and living). It can be difficult.
Do it anyway.