Last week, I walked into my daughter’s school to pick her up from her Brownies troop meeting. As I walked down the halls, I kept thinking about the elementary school in Sandy Hook where a young man carried in 4 guns, killing 20 children and 6 adults. That school probably looked a lot like this one, I thought. A colorful bulletin board urging students to “Imagine. Believe. Achieve.” Little boots lined up next to lockers. Crayon self-portraits neatly displayed. It could happen here played over and over in my mind.
A generous dose of denial – “it will never happen in my community” – isn’t cutting it anymore. I’ve realized mass shootings are not going away. We’ve all realized it. But we can’t agree on how to stop it. Disagreement. Argument. Debate. Dispute. Controversy. Division. Everywhere we look, discord currently abounds. Can anything good ever come from it? I say YES.
We talk – occasionally with civility, but often with hostility – about the things that need to change:
- Stricter gun laws
- Greater access to mental health services
- Better parenting
- More counselors, social workers, and nurses in the schools
- Address toxic masculinity
- Prevent domestic violence
- Block the NRA’s use of influence over elected officials
- Decrease violence in movies and video games
…and the list goes on.
It seems as though we are waiting for general consensus; one guaranteed plan, one magical solution, that will fix everything. You know what I think? In order to address mass shootings, we need to address all of those issues, and probably a few others. In one social media discussion this week, a friend of mine said “If it was an easy fix, we would have solved it by now.” I agree. It’s highly complex.
So, can I suggest a way to move forward? Instead of arguing about what we’re against, can we first agree on what we’re for? We are for safe schools, safe theaters, and safe public areas. With a multi-layered problem to be solved, we don’t have to agree on which layer is most urgent. Pick the one that matters most to you, then DO SOMETHING about it.
St. Paul highlighted the beauty of each one serving the community in various ways:
“We all have gifts. They differ according to the grace God has given to each of us. Do you have the gift of prophecy? Then use it according to the faith you have. If your gift is serving, then serve. If it is teaching, then teach. Is it encouraging others? Then encourage them. Is it giving to others? Then give freely. Is it being a leader? Then work hard at it. Is it showing mercy? Then do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8)
You, my friend, have a gift. You have something unique to offer this situation. Your input matters. And your output matters.
We all have points of view. They differ according to our personalities and life experiences. Do you worry about lax gun laws? Then join an organization that’s working to change them. If your concern is lack of school support services, help raise funding for schools. If you have compassion for isolated, angry kids, then volunteer to mentor youth. Are you passionate about providing better access to mental health services? Then work hard to make it happen.
Disagreement is ugly when it’s a catalyst for anger, fear, and hostility. That kind of disagreement brings out the worst in each of us. Anger is prevalent in our current climate because we feel helpless and frustrated. Instead of directing our anger at the problem, we are directing our anger at each other. I am weary of seeing others – and others seeing me – engaged in pointless conflict. Meanwhile, school children continue to die while we stew in unproductive acrimony.
Disagreement is beautiful when it becomes a springboard for outwardly-focused creative thinking and passionate activism. It’s beautiful when it motivates us to cheer each other on, each doing their best work, taking different paths but working toward the same goal.
We do not have to be prisoners of anger, feeding on chaos, festering in vitriol. Rather, we can choose to give thanks for the many hands that are working together, tackling this complex problem from multiple angles.
Your input matters. Your output matters.