I’m a cliche. I’m highly educated, am fortunate enough to have a nice home and a beautiful family, I send my kids to good schools, and complain about politics, while clicking my tongue and pouring another glass of wine. My husband and I contribute to charities, watch John Oliver, and feel true outrage and the unfairness of our world. Because we really care.
And every time we hear about a shooting, or an act of terrorism, we feel a little more unsafe. We talk about gun control, and the stale-mate caused by the inadequacy of a highly partisan congress, because guns must be the problem. Or we talk about mental illness, and how we need to identify sick people before violence happens, because mental illness must be the problem. Of course we talk about terrorism, too, and how extremism must be the issue.
Maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t guns or mental disease. Those factors have always been there, and yet this mass violence has been a growing problem only in the past decade. Maybe this problem is something new, something that we are creating.
Even in public, we stare at our phones instead of saying hello. Of course that wouldn’t cause most of us to turn to violence, we’re just taking a minute to zone out of our hectic lives. But what about those who are painfully shy, or those who don’t have friends and family to turn to-someone needing a smile, a kind word-to feel a part of the world? As they are iced out by a community too busy to glance up, falling deeper into isolation, who do they have to turn to? I’m not blaming technology, but the internet can be a dark place, and humans need to communicate. Just glance at a comment section of a Youtube video or Instagram post. People can be terribly cruel when given anonymity. Isolating someone for long enough with only hatred to feed them can be a dangerous thing.
The rhetoric, the politics, the division, none of it is improving anything. So maybe as a society, we all need to step up and change.
This is my challenge: Everywhere you go, leave your phone in your car. Go out, be a part of your community, talk to people. Talk to strangers, at least one person wherever you are during the day. Even if it’s just saying hello and smiling, while you’re at Starbucks or standing in line at the food store. Don’t see that as an opportunity to check your e-mail or answer a text. Talk to people in your workplace, talk to that coworker who doesn’t say much. Figure out what they’re interested in, look it up if you have to, and take an interest-whether or not it’s something you care about. Stop being too busy, too distracted. Ask someone to coffee, a neighbor, a co-worker, someone you don’t really know. I would imagine a mass shooter has to check out, see their victims as the enemy-something foreign and detached. Start showing people that you care enough to be a part of their lives. At the very least, you’ll feel good about what you’re doing, and at the very most-you may save someone’s life.