Sunday, December 16, 2012
So now what? (my response to Friday's shooting)
On Friday, I was sitting in my car while my toddler napped in his car seat. I opened up Facebook and started to cry, and then weep as I read the tragic story. We had a doctor's appointment to go in to in 10 minutes, and I knew I had to pull myself together, but I couldn't. I wept for the innocent children, the teachers, the parents, the families and town involved, the officers and medical staff, and also for the shooter and his family. I stared at my child in the back seat and wept for him. Before long, I realized that what I was truly grieving was the sadness of our culture. The culture that I am a part of, that my son is growing up in. There is darkness and fear in this world that breaks my heart.
I have worked in mental health for over 10 years. I have two undergraduate degrees, a masters in counseling and in family therapy, and a specialization in play thearpy, but even with this training I struggle to understand this tragedy. I spent over five years working at an inpatient facility for children and teens. I worked hands on with some of the most emotionally disturbed teens in my area. While working there, I did not see the child as the problem, as something to be gotten rid of. I grew a heart for these children and saw their pain, their own personal darkness. I learned that there is no "understanding" or "making sense" of it, even as their therapist. I learned that my job was to come alongside them and be there. These teenagers were hurting, they were angry, they felt alone and isolated. The thing I could give them, that their world (whether that be our culture, society, their family, etc.) had not, was connection. They needed to experience what it felt like to have someone care, to be accepted, and what it was like to care for someone else. They needed hope that they too could connect in this world.
Many of these teens have shared desires to harm others and themselves. For them, this desire was not because they were evil or full of hate. Instead, it was from trauma, pain, sadness, isolation, hurt, abuse, being bullied, or being forgotten. There are plenty of ways they can accomplish whatever pain they plan on sharing with the world. I, for one, do not want the responsibility of babysitter and making sure that all sharp objects are locked away. I would rather spend my energy dealing with the root cause of their pain in the first place.
I would love to fix our entire culture, but I am just one. So my time and energy is spent healing and helping those that come across my path in pain. I am an advocate for relationship. Each one of these hurting teens needed someone to join in relationship with them. To listen to them. To accept them. And to be there for them. I am not going to say it is easy. Being in a relationship with someone who is angry, hateful, or depressed is one of the most tiring things you can do. To do it well will take most, if not all, of your energy. When I look around this time of year I see so many wonderful people giving and donating to children, charities, and families. I am encouraged by all of the posts on Pinterest or Facebook about ideas on how to give back. However, I can't help but feel like that is the easy way out. I'm not saying those things aren't good, or not important. What I'm saying is that again, it is an easy fix. What would happen if instead of dropping a toy off in the angel tree bin, your family built a relationship with the family down the street who was in need? What if we took the time to play with the children who do not have anyone to play with rather than handing them a new toy?
Our society is so self invested, and all about me. We are raised to "look out for number one" and to "just worry about yourself," but what would happen if we turned our eyes to those hurting, those that are in need, even when it was inconvenient. Even when it meant taking a risk. I can't help but wonder what this would do to our world. How much of the darkness would be overcome with joy and love. I know there will always be good and evil, but I wish that rather than trying to hide the "evil" in jails or mental health hospitals, that we were investing and connecting them with the good on a relationship level.
Let's be more of an investor in others than in ourselves and see the radical change that occurs.