Heavy Boots

I have scurried down the rabbit hole otherwise known as the first semester of  grad school and am finally able to come up for air to enjoy the holiday season. I know y’all are beyond thrilled.

The fuzzy, tingly Christmas feeling that liquidates our hearts has been dampened for many of us this year. The recent Connecticut shootings have given me heavy boots as author Jonathan Safron Foer would write. I remember seeing the headlines and photos flash across my television screen and newspapers. Seeing the pictures of the children, hearing their parents tell stories about their dreams, reading about the teacher hiding her children in cabinets as the gunman took her life…all of it has trouble settling, like oil mixing with water. As I have conversations with friends and family, it is clear that there is no one right way to react when the unimaginable happens.

I know various debates have been sparked about gun control. I do believe it is an issue, but I can’t help but think that a person with that much pain in their heart will always find a way to hurt. And even if  we are able to take the gun out of someone’s hands, what are we leaving behind? What about the pain in their heart that will continue to manifest itself in other terrible ways? What about taking the voices out of a person’s head that tell them to end the life of a child who hasn’t had their 6th birthday? There are deeper, scarier issues here.

There are people out there all over our world hurting, many of them harboring invisible wounds. They are the people beside us inside subways, malls, and classrooms. They are the people we see on the side of the street, the people we see when we travel the world. People are bitter, lonely, confused, and deeply troubled. And often, their wounds are buried so deep we think they are just fine, just fine.

I read an article about the gunman that described him as a socially awkward teenager that was monitored by the school psychologists and spent day after day playing violent video games. The article said people were worried about him getting hurt because he could not feel pain.

I am not saying by any means that we can predict that someone is going to pick up a gun and go on a violent rampage, destroying the lives of strangers. No one could have predicted or imagined that a young man would be so deeply troubled that he would have gotten up one morning and walked out the door with a such a twisted, disgusting motive.

But what do we do now?

For every life lost, there are the lives of the other people who loved that person, who knew that person that now will never be the same. And I, as a stranger many states away, find myself mourning along with my peers. The gunman did not just take a handful of lives, he took thousands. I wonder if in his mind, he could possibly realize the chain of hurt he was starting.

I think in times of tragedy we have a responsibility. And I think that responsibility is something much bigger than we realize. I think we are responsible for creating chains of love, for doing what we can in our own small lives to keep hope that wounds don’t have to keep throbbing, that lives don’t have to remain broken.

We all think what could have been done to prevent this, to stop this. It this boy couldn’t get his hands on a gun, how would his pain have gone on to manifest itself? How many people out there are feeling the same hurt that could lead to senseless violence?

The only way I know to help right now is to be deliberate and intentional with the way I live my life. To start spreading love like wildfire. For every string of hate, a string of love created.

“The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.”                                                                                                                             -Martin Luther King, Jr.


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