|The Good Life: We are not separate, we are one family|
|December 21, 2012 Lisa Betz|
Since last week’s mass murder at Newton, Conn. that cut short the lives of 20 school children, four teachers, the school psychologist and the school principal by a disturbed young man, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, many of us have struggled for answers and solutions to the rash of gun violence and mass murders experienced in America.
Did you know that last weekend we saw even more than the Connecticut shootings? There were two police officers shot and killed in Kansas; a three-year-old child accidentally shot and killed himself in Oklahoma; a man shot his wife in Roy, Utah and kept police in a stand-off for two hours; a Detroit gunman is at large after shooting someone four times; one person was shot in a San Antonio movie theater parking lot; a woman was shot at a campground in Bradley County, Tenn.; another woman was found shot to death in her home in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The rise of violence and mass murders is being discussed everywhere, in coffee shops, work places and online. As we celebrate our holiday season by watching heart-warming movies about the Christmas message of love and kindness, I wonder how we can continue to compartmentalize the mixed messages we send and receive in a culture that allows so many of us to fall through the cracks.
Christmas means many things to many people. For some it is the birth of Jesus, for others it is the return of light in a dark and dreary month, for others it is the giving and receiving of presents, and for some it is a time of sadness, depression and misery. Christmas is the most beloved of holidays, and most can agree that its primary message is one of peace, joy, generosity of spirit and brotherhood.
I have long believed that Dec. 21, 2012, predicted to be the final day of our existence by the doomsdayers, is really about a shift in consciousness. I have felt that something was going to happen to cause mankind to shift to a loving way of being, one that celebrates our Oneness rather than the current paradigm of separateness. And now we have an event of such earthshaking magnitude that our backs are broken in grief for those precious babies who are dead, those teachers who valiantly tried to save their students and the administrators who were helpless in the face of one angry man loaded for bear.
How did this young man go from being one of those precious little babies himself to the tortured soul who insanely destroyed the lives of so many on his path to ending his own suffering? That is the question we must ask and the problem we must solve together.
I put up my Christmas tree Sunday. It took me all day and while I decorated, I had holiday movies on the TV. I have seen Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ many times. I have performed as Mrs. Cratchet and know the script well. One particular scene from A Christmas Carol gave me goose bumps when I heard it this time. The scene is with Scrooge and two donation collectors:
“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.
“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”
“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.
“Both very busy, sir.”
“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”
“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.
“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”
The ghost of many election conversations reared up in my mind. The thing is, other people absolutely are our business. They are Scrooge’s business and they are ours too, each and every day, not just at Christmastime. When we make it our business to care for those around us who are struggling, sad, lonely, lost and suffering, we lessen the suffering in the world.
We tend to separate ourselves from those outside our blood or church familes. We do this by labeling people, placing them into categories that help us to write them off. No one is immune from this. If someone is rich, we think, they must be happy and don’t need our generosity. If someone is fat, they just don’t care so why should I? If they are labeled as evil, well they’ll get theirs in hell someday. Unchristian? Pray they find the light; back to regular programming. Poor? Lazy. Stupid? No help for that. Ignorant? It’s a choice. We write people off with labels every day. We all do this in some measure, even when think we are better than that. The thing is, we can be better than that if we live conscientiously.
We can invest our love and energy in people we see every single day but we can only do that if we begin to see that we are all part of one family. We are not separate from each other.
I am not talking about writing a check for the poor, the hungry or the lost. I am talking about love. Give your love to someone who has little of it. Talk to someone who is withdrawn and backward. Find out how the person in front of you lives, what their struggles are. If you demonstrate that they matter, remember them every time you see them, develop relationships of caring and respect with the person who takes out your groceries and others who perform service to you every day, the world will change. Don’t just write a check and say thank you, invest your heart, your time, your energy. That one relationship that you develop over time (and it does take time) could be the one reason someone isn’t lost. You might be the one person in someone’s life who gives that person love and attention. At some future date when that person contemplates doing something awful, they might think of you, of your friendship and realize that you would care about what they are about to do. And it may be enough to stop them.
To stop these horrific tragedies, we have to stop creating Adam Lanzas, Eric Harrises and Dylan Klebolds. This is going to take a concerted effort for each one of us to invest in each other as though everyone was our sister, brother, father, mother, child. Look around you. Who is the awkward person, the lonely one, the angry one in your daily life? Talk to them. Ask about their families, ask them what they are doing for Christmas, then ask them after the holiday how it went. Keep asking questions every time you see them.
Invest your love and don’t give up. Those who live without kindness and love are often suspicious when it comes their way. Keep at it. It isn’t that hard, it isn’t painful. What is painful is seeing on the news that another deranged gunman has slaughtered more children and senselessly destroyed the peace and happiness of countless lives.
These tragedies will continue until we create a world where we all treat each other as family.