If Not Now, Then When?

Date posted: December 16, 2012

[dc]W[/dc]hile on my way to Kripalu this weekend to teach, I stopped at a rest area on the Mass Pike for lunch. I paused before getting out of the car as I was crying for the families in Newtown, CT.

A car pulled up next to me and the woman rolled down her window. I could see she was crying, too.

“Connecticut?” She said.

“Yes,” I responded.

And we wept together.ray of sunshine

The violence must stop. On that we all agree.

Love and prayers are being sent worldwide to envelope the community of Newtown, CT during this unbelievably horrific time. Our collective heart breaks for the lost souls and those left behind.

And then comes the disconnect. There are a lot of opinions being expressed about how to prevent any future incidents like this from happening again:

  • Improved mental health services
  • Stricter gun control laws
  • More lenient gun control laws
  • Closer evaluation and monitoring of the quality of our food, and its correlation to mental illness
  • Limiting the amount of violence we allow our children to be exposed to through television, video games, and movies
  • Bringing religion and prayer back to the schools
  • And more

People are trying to wrap their heads around the situation, and everyone has their own way of going about it. Whatever your thoughts are on the above list, the fact of the matter is that we need to have some conversations; conversations that may be uncomfortable; conversations that could be controversial.

Many say we shouldn’t be debating these things at this time. But when? That same argument was made after the movie theater massacre; and the recent mall shooting; and Columbine; and Virginia Tech. Yes, now isn’t the time. The time was many years ago.

Instead of avoiding the conversation, let’s re-frame it. Let our intention be to come together — those on all sides of the issue — and listen to one another to work together toward some solutions.

Keyword there – listen. Not debate. Not yell. Not holler about amendments. No shaking fists. We’re on the same page. We all want this to stop. Clearly what we’re currently doing (or not doing, as the case may be) isn’t working.

I’m not talking some kumbaya circle (although that wouldn’t hurt either!), but how about an open and honest discussion where everyone is heard?

This movement can start right in your home or community. Chances are you know someone who has a differing opinion to yours. Consider a loving and intentional chat with them to understand their views. And share yours. Try to find a common ground.

I bet by taking a page from each of your books, you can come up with some action to help the overriding goal, which is to put an end to this violence. That action may simply be that you both now sit down with another person, and so on, until you’ve assembled a group of folks willing to harness the collective passion to make some serious waves.

So this is the perfect time for this discussion. It’s when the pain and agony are fresh that we feel the most compelled to take action, and it’s when our intention is to do good and not to be right.

This quote from Mr. Rogers (as in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) has been making the rounds, and rightfully so:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

Let’s be helpers. Let’s start here. What are you thoughts on a solution to these all-too-common tragedies? Where do you feel, as a country, we should be putting our focus? Let this be a safe place to share your opinions. The world needs your voice.

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  1. Kerri, thank you. Love surrounds you to continue speaking for all of us who are speechless and shocked.

  2. Thank you Kerri for heading your list with “mental health.” There wil lalways be weapons available for those who want to kill to be able to kill. Identifying and having the resources to help those who need it seems to be left out as a potential solution by many.

    • Tim,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I think it’s a real problem that citizens have easier access to guns than mental health services. And that’s just one of the conversations we should be having.

  3. Kerri,
    Thank you for this thoughtful, beautifully expressed post. I have been struggling to frame my own response to the many opinions that seem to be flying at me from all directions, and what you have to say just resonates so deeply.

    In this holiday season, I find my mind drifting to that old song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…” I believe an excellent first step is what you suggest: being willing to truly listen to one another, less concerned with pushing our own agenda (valid though it may be) and more focused on coming together. Putting the problem out in front of us so to speak, and becoming a team devoted to overcoming it.

    For my own two cents, I’d love us to consider the potential dangers of putting so many of our children on long-term medications that have a host of serious side effects and which have not yet been put through the scientific rigor of long-term studies. The possible link between some of these medications and violent behavior is just now coming to public awareness. I think it’s something that bears careful scrutiny.

    Thank you for providing this “safe place” for conversations to begin!

    Take good care,
    Nicole

    • Thanks for sharing your voice, Nicole! These are exactly the kinds of conversations I’m talking about. You bring up an interesting point about medications. That’s an area that could certainly use some closer examination. What are some of your thoughts on aspects to look at in that arena? In your opinion, what are different approaches that parents, doctors, loved ones, etc could take outside of medication?

  4. I say yes, please to the kumbaya circle 🙂 Because truly, words may (and do) wound as deeply as any bullet, and “control” still feels quite fear based. Let’s turn it around and amplify faith, trust, spirit…let’s be the change that is consistently quoted in social media–let’s live the meaning instead of merely re-tweeting them. And, yes, please, let us explore differences so we may learn while we are learning to be love. May our tears bless these new seeds that are being planted…refreshing and re-energizing the positive current in the world!

    • Oh I love this, Joy! Yes, we see those tweets and re-tweets all the, time of inspirational words. Now let’s intentionally live them. After all we must “be the change we wish to see in the world!” 🙂

  5. This is beautiful, Kerri. Thank you for sharing your story and for starting a much-needed conversation. I think we all long for a simple solution. A solution that feels doable and is clear and unambiguous. A solution that can be used as a rallying cry. And I believe that there is a simple solution: replace the current culture of shame and scarcity with one of vulnerability and abundance. Simple. But not easy.

    I do believe that access to mental health services is critical. But even those who do have access to these services don’t always make use of them. For some, their shame around needing mental health services keeps them from taking advantage of what those services have to offer. But beyond that, the mental health field does not have all the answers and cannot provide support to every patient and their families every day of the year. Support from a mental health professional alone isn’t enough.

    I also believe that gun control should be much stricter in this country. I don’t believe we will ever get to my personal ideal, but there need to be more controls around the types of firearms that are available and how easily they are to obtain. Even with legally obtained firearms, accidental shootings will happen (historically, anywhere between 20 and 30 percent of all firearm-related injuries are the result of accidents). And, the truth is, that the purchase of a gun puts a deadly weapon into the hands of an individual who is, like all of us, subject to a whole host of emotions, including anger and rage. If the gun was purchased as protection, it was purchased from a place of scarcity and fear. Gun control alone is not enough.

    Conversations like the one you started here help us to start to build a culture of vulnerability and abundance. They help us learn how to be uncomfortable and tackle the difficult questions without numbing the emotions and fears that come up for all of us. They allow us to practice the art of being vulnerable and of seeking understanding. And for that, I am very grateful.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Erica! That’s a great point about mental health services availability not being enough in and of itself. The view of mental health needs must shift to one of necessity and not weakness. Why is it when someone needs medication for, say, diabetes, there isn’t judgment, but when there’s a need for support around a mental illness, there is? Let the necessary support come from a professional, our community, loved ones, faith, etc. These are challenging times we live in. Let’s rise up and be there for one another.

      And gun control is such a hot topic and so complicated. The NRA has very deep pockets and can get politicians to agree with their views. That’s not to say their views are wrong or bad, only that our system should not encourage or stand for these kinds of payouts. I agree that there needs to be tighter security around obtaining a gun. It’s far too easy. And, to obtain a license, yes you get training on handling a firearm, but you don’t get training to handle one in a stressful situation. That’s a whole different ballgame.

      Police officers and the military are trained specifically in intense situations for a reason. The average gun owner is not. So who’s to say things in Newtown could have been different if a teacher was armed? How can you be sure he or she would be able to make the right moves? This is so not a black and white topic. So many gray areas in between….

  6. When I was little I had a toy cap gun. I pointed it at some one and it was taken away. At that time ALL human life was considerd sacred. Now we abort our children because we can’t afford them(for the mothers MENTAL health you know). It is also believed unwanted children will be abused.We make video games of killing people. Our elderly are also expensive. They stand up for themselves for now but, the weakest of society are the first to be devalued.

    Hiding all the guns, withholding information about chemical weapons, explosives will slow some people down and may even stop the majority. They are a growing crowd, that is not enough.
    Making all human life sacred to each person, as much as possable even in the mind of a deranged person is our best defence.

    God loves each one of us and gave his son to make us sacred.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Wendell. I really appreciate your perspective. I think we have gotten away from seeing us all as the same/one. It’s the idea of “us vs. them” in whatever form that takes that creates a separatism that somehow makes it less shocking to hurt one another. We’re all in this together.

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