I have always been a firm believer in love. That it big, strong, and brilliant. That love can change things. But we’re living through some intense times. Anyone on social
media can tell you. I’m on Facebook (yes, I know this ages me) and I see it every day. There is a lot of fear, and a lot of division. I’ve always had a bit of a Pollyanna view of the world. That good would conquer and love was enough and it was all about having a good heart. But now I’m really starting wonder, is love enough?
I think the answer is No. Many of us are afraid and angry. We are at great odds in our thinking with those around us. We’re seeing violence in our schools like never before. Things will never change without action. A handful of years ago I went to a 4-day conference called Breakthrough. I was in a room with people of different walks and ages, most that I had never met before, and we were drilled for 4 days by life coaches. It was kind of horrible. Because we were called on our b.s. for 4 days straight. We had walls put up? Why weren’t we willing to take them down. We didn’t follow through on our responsibilities? Didn’t we know our actions affected other people. We were forced to face all the excuses we had made for not living life we wanted. I learned that my actions mattered. That there were no such thing as neutral interactions; but that all the thousands of interactions I had with people daily (even just at the grocery store) mattered because I was leaving something behind. I was taught that good intentions were just gestures and that what people really needed from me was action. That my good intentions weren’t helping anyone at all. My actions mattered. I can truly say that I’ve never been the same since that encounter. I was forced to take a hard look at the way I lived and realized I wanted to start living as if what I did mattered.
I know I am loved because people have driven miles to bring me dinner after the birth of a baby, taken care of my kids countless times, given me couches, collected money for my family one Christmas when I wasn’t receiving child support. I know that people love me because they’ve put hands and feet to their love. They’ve shown me that love isn’t a feeling but an action Love without action is not enough.
In light of the recent, and ongoing school shootings; what does action look like? How does my love and concern turn into something meaningful and tangible? There is something powerful to grieving with those who grieve. With praying and sending good thoughts to victims. It means that we have empathy and recognize our connection to those around us. It is a first step. But grieving students and parents need much more than just to know that the larger community loves them right now. They need to see hands and feet put to that concern.
I’ve heard theories over why we’re seeing an increase in school shootings. Theories that family units aren’t strong, there’s not enough discipline, untreated mental health issues, taking God out of schools, too many guns, not enough guns. As spot on as any of those might be, to me, all they do is remove us from the equation. If I am not guilty of any of those things, then I can stand on the sidelines and cast judgement on those who didn’t. They are the problem. There’s nothing I can do. We want to point fingers because then we are not complicit.
I’m going to say something that you might not want to hear. We are all complicit. Let me say that again, we are all to blame. How can that be? I wasn’t involved in any way. Exactly. Our lack of involvement is what got us here. If you believe that the increase in school shootings is a mental health issue, do your actions show it? Are you fighting for health care coverage and funding for programs that provide mental health to those who need it? If you believe the problem lies in the crumbling family unit or lack of discipling, how do your actions show it? Are you doing everything in your power to support families around you? Are you standing by single parents, underprivileged families, families with children with special needs…families who might be doing a better job of being a unit if they had enough support? Raising kids is an endless and exhausting task. Imaging having a child with mental health issues. Or violent streaks. Or a kid who stays locked in their room and refuses to talk or let you in. Many families are at the end of their ropes. They can’t find the help they need. Imagine being that parent and knowing you are being judged because you can’t find the help you need?
If you think we are seeing more violence in schools because God has been removed from schools, is the God you believe in limited by human laws? Has he left the schools? And if God exists, even he requires people to be his hands and feet. Are you a presence in your children’s school, making sure kids and staff feel loved and supported?
Action can sometimes feel like the easy part. Especially when we’re spurred on by feelings of anger. But this is what I believe about action- We cannot accomplish any meaningful action without unity. It takes a village. Any great change that has occurred through history was brought about through people uniting for the cause. Ouch. This is a hard one. We are a polarized people. Our political beliefs seem to have drawn a line in the sand that we’re not willing to cross. How can we possibly ever have unity? I have a suggestion. Let go of always being right in favor of being connected.
I am forever hearing about our rights. Somehow in demanding our rights, we’ve lost basic decency and kindness. It’s true, you have every right to have an opinion. You have every right to have an opposing opinion than me. You even have the right to post your opinion on social media through scathing comics, cutting memes, comments like “Anyone who believes this is an idiot” … You have that right. But to what end?
It’s no coincidence that the people who follow you on Facebook are called “friends”. They’re supposed to be your friends. They’re the people you go to school or work with. They’re family, family friends, people you met on trips. People you tend to like and want to share your life with. They are people who brought you soup when you were sick and held your new baby so you could sleep and caught your tears and snot on their new sweater when you couldn’t stop crying. These are people who have different backgrounds, belief systems, upbringings than you. Their beliefs, like yours, have been hard won through life’s ups and downs. These are the people who are being affected by the divisive comments or inflammatory memes. Your friends.
How can we possibly ever unite to fight a cause if we are holding onto our right to say things that are divisive and offensive to our friends. Those people who have our backs. Those people who could unite with us to fight a cause if only we felt like we were on the same team. I am guilty of this. I’ve lashed out in frustration. And I am truly sorry. I have let my frustration show itself though snarky comments. I have no right. You are my friends. We can’t be both for each other and against each other. Don’t forget who (or what) the enemy is. Children are getting killed at school. I would sure like as many people on my team as possible in fighting this, despite your political association. If you believe that our children and staff should be safe at school, you and I are on the same team. Period. We might have different ways of approaching the issue, but we both want the same thing.
If you don’t want to talk gun control, that’s ok. Let’s find other common ground. Let’s talk about supporting our community. I’d love to see the schools where shootings have occurred receive hundreds of letters saying – we grieve with you, you matter, we promise to do our part to end violence in schools. I would love to see people show up on school campuses while kids arrive and hold signs that read “You matter” “You are loved” “You deserve to feel safe” “We are on your side”. I work at a high school. It is intense work. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the trenches with these kids. It is hard and endless work. We need support. I need support. No positive change has ever come about in my life because of a negative message. Someone making me feel small, stupid, ashamed or wrong never made me want to join their team. Don’t you feel the same? Can we find ways to accomplish something despite our differences? I believe we can.
How can we unite? Love. We’ve come full circle. Unity is impossible without love. We can have the passion and desire to see something happen. We can whip people up into a frenzy to follow our lead. But it’s not sustainable without love. We are in this for the long haul. Change takes time. It can be easy to become hopeless (especially with the political climate). Love helps us remember that the people we’re fighting against are those we could be fighting alongside.
Find people you can join with to make meaningful change. Accept difference and try to remember what it is you’re fighting for. Let love be the fire that keeps you going.
And last of all….You Matter!
Make it count