There’s no right response in times like these. Nothing we feel can be rational under such circumstances. Shock, anger, grief. It’s a wave that never ends. I found myself searching for answers, then giving up. I sat in a hot shower for thirty minutes watching the water turn black from my mascara. I clasped my hands together in prayer, squeezing them tight so that God could feel my plea. I breathed in the steam, and expelled sobs. I tried to find words but I didn’t know what to say, it seemed so futile. I prayed for recovery, but that doesn’t change much. This will happen again.
We learned the news today, and we will plaster our condolences across our social media pages. We will shed tears and go through the stages of grief. And next week, everything will be the same again. We will go on with our normal lives. We will scan diapers and toothpaste at cash registers, serve food at diners, sell cars, clothes, and makeup, and scrub floors and windows. We will take our children to school, we will go to movie theaters and concerts, and we will forget that everywhere we go is dangerous. Every so often we will look around at the crowd beside us and feel the chill crawl through our body, a fleeting moment where we realize that nowhere is safe. We will push it down the only way we know how.
On Friday nights, we will sink into our couches and watch celebrity gossip. We will check our bank statements and debate over the next big purchase, grimace at our savings accounts. We will walk our dogs and avoid eye-contact with passerby on the sidewalk. We will fake smiles in waiting rooms and grocery store lines. We will “like” and “share” posts on Facebook lamenting about everything that is awful in the world. During elections, we will get on our soapboxes and defend our hard-earned judgement. We will seethe against leaders and laws and try to salvage America’s “values.” We will argue with our uncles and co-workers about who should be in power and what should change.
What will change? Can we?
I want to be angry with people, I want to scream at them, “DO SOMETHING!” I wish that it didn’t take days like this to remind people how irrevocably broken this world is. I want to understand why things are this way. I want to blame someone, but I can’t, there’s no one. We’re all to blame. I hover over a line where I try to persuade myself that people are inherently good at heart, and that there is hope for everyone. Then something deep inside the center of my heart aches with the reality that there is evil around us. It is the fear that we can become corrupt and evil. Everywhere in plain sight there is sorrow, and it slaps me across my face and shakes me to the core.
This is so much more than a mass shooting. This is a reminder of the pain that exists in humankind. We do not take care of ourselves, our earth, and we do not take care of each other. In this society we are taught to repress our demons. We fill our empty souls with things and noise. It’s all meaningless. We work, we go into debt, we collect a house full of stuff, and we die. That is what society has built. This lifestyle is briefly interrupted with tragic events. We never do anything about it. We do not respond, we only react.
In the grand scheme of things, I am insignificant and what I think and feel does not matter to anyone. But I do have power to make change. I can smile at the person on the sidewalk. I can use my intrinsic gifts for good. I can give what little I have in money and possessions. I don’t need it. I can speak and I can feel and I can be vulnerable. I can sing and dance and make people laugh in this dark world. I can devote my life to helping people.
At the very least, I can love. That’s all I really have, after all. I can love with all my heart. When I depart from this place, at least I’ll know I tried.