Yesterday I was walking through Target, leisurely picking up a few items in the grocery area. I was wallowing in my sorrows, feeling the loneliness of having moved 950 miles away from my family a couple of months ago. My transition to a new place had been hard, and the emotions, feelings, and pain that I thought I would be able to escape were ever present in my life. I was picking up my last item and prepared to head over to the checkout lines when I overheard these two adult men talking about baseball. I slowed my cart and pretended to look at apples, while in reality I was drawn into their conversation.
The one man was talking about major league baseball and how the particular game he referenced had ended much quicker than any game he had watched in the past. The second man responded that he had missed the game because he was playing kickball that night, and even went on to say that he plays kickball once a week despite having a busy life with multiple kids.
The first man acted surprised by this and implied that between work and caring for his family, there simply was not a lot of free time to do the things he enjoyed these days. The second man laughed and referenced how life can be overwhelming and busy. But then he went on and mentioned how the shooting in Vegas caused him to reevaluate his life. He said that it was something he used to do back before he had kids, but it had been lost in the diapers, carpooling, and driving kids to and from sports over the years. But after the Vegas shooting he decided that he needed to start doing the things he really loves again because life is short.
He told his friend that the Vegas shooting made him realize that he needed to live in the moment and do the things that he loved.
When I heard all of this I literally froze in place. I instantly looked at this man. I could see the genuine look on his face when he told his friend about it. About how the Vegas shooting incident had scared him and made him realize how special life is and how people need to live each day doing everything that they can to be happy. All of this came out of a forty-something-year-old middle class white man who was affected by the Vegas shooting.
It really made me stop and think. Was I really living that day standing in the cold grocery section in Target? Probably not. Had I gotten out of bed before noon that day? Honestly, no. Was I making the most of my day on this Earth? Absolutely not. Instead I was mourning the loss of my person. I lost my sister 22 months ago to a mysterious illness that took her life before anyone could understand what was happening. I have grieved every day since.
When I heard about the Vegas shooting, I instantly thought about the loss of all of those innocent people and the grief that their families were about to experience. The numbing, crippling, indescribable pain of losing someone you love. I thought about the phone calls to parents, children, spouses, and best friends when they would learn that their loved one was gone, killed by a disgusting excuse for a human. I thought about the nights they would lay in bed with tear streaked down their faces, wishing it had been them instead of the person now gone. For days they may sit there numbed by the pain, looking at the world and wondering how anyone can function with such a heavy grief placed upon their heart. Many will question their own lives and why some people die suddenly at the hands of wretched people while others live long lives and die in their 80s.
Yet as I stood there thinking about all of this, I saw how this man specifically was affected by the shooting. But he decided to take this knowledge and use it for something good. Something as simple as playing kickball once a week because it’s something he loves to do.
Death and violence affect everyone differently, but it’s how each and every person decides to move forward with that knowledge that is most important. I think many people forget this nowadays with so much hatred and violence in the world. We cannot live in fear of mass violence. If we show fear, then we let them win. Grief will always be an aspect of life, and even an integral part of mine, but it’s how we choose to live our lives moving forward that really counts.