Today, on the 144th day of the year, we as a country are facing the 212th mass shooting and the 30th shooting in a K-12 school in 2022. There is no way to adequately describe the pain and despair that so many of us feel today.
I’ve thought for a while about what to say in response to the tragedy. One thing I can say is that the phrase that has been trotted out so much in public after the barrage of tragedies – “My thoughts are prayers are with you …” – is clearly not enough. We need to pick up on the spirit of the utterance and tweak it a little. Something along the lines of, “I’m focusing my thoughts and prayers on figuring out what God is calling me to DO in response to the tragedy.”
I tweaked the phrase because I want to make two things clear. First, we can no longer settle for simply THINKING about the series of tragedies. Now is the time for each of us to respond with some form of action. Which leads me to my second point: the actions that come from the shooting will be different for many of us. Some of us, for instance, will be motivated to join and/or support an organization like Moms Demand Action; others will be motivated to join and/or support organizations that support those dealing with emotional and mental health challenges like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Some of us will start registering people to vote so they can support candidates who will take action to deal with the gun violence; others will pick up the Primary ballot they set to the side and re-commit to completing and sending in their ballot to support those willing to address the issues involved. Some will respond by reaching out to a social service agency to report a loved one exhibiting violent tendencies so their loved one can finally get the help they need; others will respond by making a concerted effort to get to know more neighbors in the community as a way of building relationships. Some will bring the recent events to their prayer group as a way of building spiritual strength and support so they – and their prayer partners – don’t have to face the tragedy alone; others will initiate a conversation about what happened with a loved one where they can share their concerns and actions they are committing themselves to in light of the violence.
The list of possible responses is long, indeed. There is just one response which is no longer an option: doing nothing.
I know that in the wake of yet ANOTHER senseless (and entirely preventable) tragedy, it will be very tempting to go on the attack and channel your pain into lashing out at others. That is what so many Americans do these days.
Instead of keeping the seemingly endless cycle of violence alive, my prayer is that each of us will find some way we can respond in action – so that our thoughts and prayers generate the actions needed to address this issue. In the darkness of this day, may God help us find our way to healing and hope – both individually and collectively.