So what happened on Friday in Newton Connecticut is really, really heartbreaking. I tried my typical approach of turning off all news to shield my heart from too much sorrow. Unfortunately, everywhere I turn people are talking about Newton and the tragedy that happened there. I stopped looking at Facebook because I thought I might have an anxiety attack on Friday evening. But then I heard about the massacre at the local food store, from a friend, and again when I went to Church this morning. Our pastor read the name of all 26 innocent victims during his homily. I started to cry and had a hard time stopping. My chest literally hurts for those families and that community. None of us can imagine what they are experiencing. In burying my infant daughter I know only a very small bit of the pain they must feel, and I honestly do not know how those families will keep going.
And selfishly, deep down, I feel something else that I hate. I am afraid. This isn’t the first time that a tragedy like this has happened in our nation. In the very recent past, this sort of violence has erupted in various other locations — at the mall, the movie theatre, and outside of a local supermarket. These incidents are not going away, it seems they are only increasing.
I’ve heard so many people talk about gun control or better treatment of mentally ill individuals as important preventive measures. And I think there needs to be a serious discussion about the role our government should have in helping to keep us safe. One mother wrote an excellent piece today about the need for better help for mentally ill children and adults entitled I am Adam Lanza’s Mother. Please read it. It is important. There isn’t enough help out there for those suffering from mental illness. This needs to change.
But beyond a national conversation about gun control or mental illness, what can be done? One small thing that we can all do in our regular life is put down the devices and start paying attention to those around us.
When we go to the mall to do our Christmas shopping and we are standing in line waiting, there is a strong temptation to make good use of the time and read a blog or text a friend. Don’t do it. Instead, try talking to the person next to you in line. Say a kind word to the cashier. Talk to your neighbors. Learn their names. Get to know your extended family members better. Work to create a world in which people are just a little less isolated from one another. And then take the time to teach your kids to do the same.
We live in a very individualistic world. Social media and smart phones allow us to live much of our life online. We often go through large parts of the day without interacting with real people. Such a society truly isolates those individuals who are hurting or struggling. If we all spent a little less time on our devices and a little more time paying attention to the people we see in our community, the chances of someone noticing that young man who is on the verge of a mental breakdown only increase.
I know we are all very busy. But if you are anything like me, you are rarely too busy to check your e-mail or send a text to a friend. We are never really too busy to notice. We just choose not to.
And so, I’m going to try to do this one small thing in memory of the 26 innocent people who died on Friday. I’m going to try to notice.
Let nothing trouble you
Let nothing frighten you
God never changes
Whoever has God
Wants for nothing
God alone is enough.
~ St. Teresa of Avila