In the Face of Violence

The past two days have been particularly heartbreaking ones in the USA. In the span of 24 hours a young, budding musician was brutally murdered while she met fans after a show, and one man took the lives of 50 others at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. These kinds of events have become so commonplace that what happens next is painfully predictable. A period of mourning will quickly turn into a two-sided shouting match over gun laws and, in the case of the Orlando shooting, a fresh wave of Islamophobia will likely sweep across the nation.

I often feel a sense of powerlessness when these things happen. How can I possibly make a difference? What can I, just one person, do to make the world I live in a better place?

What I’m going to write next is as much for me as it is for anyone else who happens to read this. It’s easy to want to withdraw when your world collapses around you. It’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do. I’m seeing, more and more often, that people not only feel like they’re unable to change anything, but that they don’t feel heard or empowered by those who are meant to help create that change.

The truth is that in the face of disaster reacting with fear, withdrawing from the world, doesn’t change anything, but draws us closer to the things we fear the most: isolation, pain, powerlessness. What helps me is knowing that my powers as an individual are greater than I often know and that I need to exercise that power; we all do. We have the power to shape the world that immediately surrounds us on a moment by moment basis, choosing kindness over anger, choosing community over segregation, choosing warmth over hate. This all might sound cliché, naïve even, but I believe it’s true. More and more I am inspired by friends who choose to get to know their neighbours over shutting themselves away, who consciously take moments every day to serve and help strangers, who don’t just hope and pray, but actively step forward and become warriors of light.

This is all much easier said than done and it takes courage, especially in the face of fear, but our greatest heroes aren’t people who sat and waited for the world to change; they were the ones who saw a need and, despite their own weaknesses, went out fearlessly to make a better world.