Leaving my office on Friday the 20th of July, I heard about the shooting in Colorado and immediately offered a silent prayer for the dead, the survivors, all those who were in the theater and of course, the gunman and his family. Ever since hearing once that Judas had a Mother, I have been aware that violent actions come from people who themselves were once children.
I went about my regular schedule and avoided the news, which I knew would be a 24 hour surveillance and invasion by the media into the lives of persons of interest. And I spent a few minutes of that afternoon making a banana pudding for my neighbors. In my sadness, I needed to take some kind of action, and remembering how my Mother would make the family this wonderful dessert each Sunday, it seemed most appropriate to call upon her spirit and "do" something with my anger and feelings of powerlessness.
It wasn't until the following Sunday morning that I broke down a bit in what I hope was a genuine human response to reading the names of those whose lives were ended without warning or warrant. Tears surfaced as I was confronted with the reality of a six year old's death and her injured Mother's constant request to caregivers for a report on her daughter's condition.
Sunday evening, as I turned on a cable news network to catch a glimpse of the day's news, admittedly having forgotten about the tragedy, I was bombarded by the drama of interviews with family members, investigations into the shooter's past and questions to patients who were no doubt traumatized by the event as to whether they would forgive the person responsible. There is simply no other way to put it than to say that once again, I felt deterred and distracted, not by the hopes and dreams of democracy, but by the hype and hypertension of obsession.
Now I know better what it means to say "curiosity killed the cat."
The television was turned off and I went to pull weeds in the garden to calm down and distract myself.
As I weeded, the serenity prayer became my alternative to the drug of curiosity that was knocking on every door and window of my internal home. "Give me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can and the wisdom to know the difference."
I cannot change what happened on that fateful night; nor can I change the sensationalizing of a tragedy. But I can change the channel. And I can change my mood of disgust with what has often taken a paparazzi approach to news.
And so I spent the remainder of the evening with everything turned off, even the lights and I asked God for serenity, courage and wisdom.
And here's what I received:
While I have no power over another person's actions,
- I can and will continue to speak out against assault weapons in the hands of the public. No one will convince me that we have a right to such guns.
- I can and will continue to trust that the vast majority of citizens are law abiding and decent in their treatment of one another.
- I can and will continue to challenge our public appetite for sensationalism as an escape from our personal responsibility to promote safety in our local communities.
- I can and will continue to advocate for violence prevention at all levels, including domestic abuse, bullying, and discrimination.
- I can and will continue to strive for empathy, compassion and validation towards each person I come in contact with on a daily basis, providing attention that rewards the higher self in each of us.
- I can and will continue to do what I can to eradicate poverty, ignorance, self-loathing, unemployment and internalized shame.
- I can and will continue to speak out against any cable news marketing and advertising strategies that promote drama addiction, invasion into privacy and slanted commentary while demoting "good news."
- I can and will continue to "think globally and act locally", focusing my attention, not on "out or over there", but on "right here, right now".
- I can and will continue to believe that mental disease and spiritual darkness are two sides of the same coin and that I live to promote both healthy mind and healthy soul.
- I can and will continue to believe that violent actions are reflections of a violent internal home and that peace will only come when we put down the weapons of self-hatred and fear of self.
- I can and will continue to promote human dignity as the standard to which all religious dialogue must be held, intervening whenever self-righteousness is postured.
There is no doubt that the shooting has impacted me, saddened me and at the same time, bolstered me.
It's time that we turned off the television, You Tube and the Internet more often and as my mother would say, "put our hands in the dirt or the cake bowl - either one will help us reach out beyond despair and help us maintain our power for good."
On that very evening, after turning off the television and working in the yard, I received a picture of my neighbor's daughter as she was eating the banana pudding and I smiled.
And at that moment, my balloon of life was filled again.