Clearly, I am still not over Newtown yet. I may not be for awhile. I still can’t watch any video of the children talking, can’t view their parents offering tribute to their lost angels. I can’t read the stories of the teachers, many of whom saved many lives and died heroes. I can’t process it any other way than to be stuck inside my own head – and write here. Lucky you.
We’ve heard them all week, right? Those trigger sentences. “As a whole, those people..” and “If they only would” and the They and Those are faceless and therefore easier to shift the blame on to.
I am a planner by nature. When I face something that I struggle with, I sit down and make a list. But how do you fix a nation? How do you make everyone see the light?
And what light are you trying to show them, exactly?
Today, I was circling through a drive-thru for my breakfast as I went into work, and although I had entered legally, a giant white van cut me off and scooted in front of me in line. He was an older, haggard looking gentleman, and my ire was lit. I considered my options: laying on my horn, approaching his vehicle, Instagramming his license plate.
But those options would only make me feel better. This man, who had obviously not cared if he performed this action, would most likely not be swayed by my anger; my feelings were of no matter to him. I sat there and stewed, angry to the point of shaking (um, hi, pregnancy hormones!). And I finally thought, I can’t sway him through my anger. I can only control myself.
So when I finally made it to the window to order, I asked if I could pick up his breakfast. The lady asked me twice if I understood what I was doing (and because I’m no saint, I made sure he hadn’t placed an order for an entire office or anything) and I clarified, “Tell him he obviously needs something good to happen to him today.”
And I felt SO MUCH better. Granted – again, I am not completely altruistic – some of my good vibes were smug I hope he felt like trash vibes. But the majority of them were based in the fact that I hoped he stopped and considered his next actions.
As I drove to work, I realized that we’re going about this all wrong. The answer may not be to point to the people we don’t agree with and call them names. It may not be to preach that My Way is the Only Way. It might be, instead, to admit that the problem lies within ourselves. Each of us.
Each. Of. Us.
And just think. If we each did that, if each rational adult instead wondered what THEY could do FOR THEMSELVES to fix this problem, wouldn’t that trickle out in really great ways? For instance, I need to work on my compassion and patience for others. You know who will see that and learn from it? My kids. My boys, youth in public school systems. And if they do the same, who will see that and learn from it? Their peers. And if we all did that – if we all stopped thinking that we each are so much busier and put-upon than everyone else – wouldn’t that fix a lot of problems? If we started practicing empathy and valued human lives again? Wouldn’t that mean something changed?
I can fix me. And I should, and I should do it openly and within earshot and plain view of my children. I am flawed, and there is room for improvement, so that’s the plan right now. I can’t fix national issues; that’s why I elect folks that are smarter and more capable than I. But I can fix my own outlook, and hope that it will have a positive impact on those around me. And maybe that’s all we can – and should – be doing right now.