In the midst of another tragedy in our world - this time the killings in Paris, we all search for answers. I am sure that the news networks are speculating and theorizing and talking about it nonstop and will for days or weeks. Some of you will be glued to the coverage because knowing more helps you to cope with insane occurrences like this. I won't watch if I can help it. I will inform myself, and I will continue to listen to NPR where they will no doubt also cover these terrible events. I know that for me, living in the aftermath of something like this - and immersing myself in it doesn't help me to process it faster though. I think for me it turns something like this into more of the "other," something foreign to me, something that is so outside of my world that I can almost comfort myself with the knowledge that it couldn't happen in my immediate world. It also keeps the focus on the "other" and looks for blame and retribution. I understand that every one of us processes things differently though, and for some of you immersing yourself in the coverage is exactly what you need to move on.
I remember September 11, 2001 vividly. I was flying from Minneapolis to San Francisco that day for work. I had an early flight so I could be at a client meeting later that day, it was a pretty typical day in my life at that point when I was working as a sales engineer and traveled almost weekly. Except it turned out to be completely not typical as my plane was diverted to Denver, and I spent the next day in Denver instead of San Francisco. There wasn't much to do in the hotel I managed to find with availability except to watch tv. I, like so many others, stayed pretty glued to the news updates for the many weeks to follow. However, what I most vividly remember about that day is not watching the news coverage, it is the huge outpouring of love that I felt from almost everyone I knew at the time. I think everyone who had my cell phone number then, and even many who didn't have it until that day called me to check on me. Both of my parents called me, I'd of course called my husband as soon as my plane landed in Denver, my boss called, all of my coworkers, and so many friends did too. I've told my 9/11 story many times, but I always end it with a mention of the phone calls. I don't think I'd ever fully processed why that was so important to me until I sat down to write this post. That outflowing of love is what saw me through my eventual drive back home, that love is what helped me to cope with unexplainable tragedy in our world.
The blaming and the "otherizing" that happens after terrible tragedies serves a purpose, but I don't think it actually helps us cope with the events. It deflects our fears and our hurts onto those others so we don't have to feel them. When something like this happens we all have that flash of fear, the flash of it could have been where I live, it could have been my family that was hurt, and we don't like that feeling. In my opinion though the best way for us to make that feeling go away is to feel it - let yourself be afraid, feel it, process it, own it, acknowledge it, and reach out in love to others who are feeling the same way. My coworkers who called me on 9/11 were doing so out of that place - the it could have easily been me on that trip feeling, and wanting to reach out to someone else to let them know they cared. So many of us have that instinct, and if we let ourselves reach out in love to others more often I think we could heal and help so much more than we do today.
I won't pretend to know the motivations behind all of the terrible events in our world, but I do think that love is the answer. I don't mean that we have to reach out in love directly to the people who perpetrate such terrible hatred onto our world - but reaching out in love to those close to you has a bigger effect than we give it credit for. For those of us who are parents we see the result of choosing love over blame in our lives almost daily I'd imagine. Just a couple of days ago my 12 year old opened his school Chromebook and found that the screen had shattered. He was pretty upset, and truth be told, so was I, but in that moment I had a choice to make - to choose love as a response or to choose blame. I chose love that day (and I'm not going to pretend that I didn't have to fight for that response), and we focused together on it being okay to be upset about this but that it was not the end of the world and we talked about how he would bring it to school the next day and face the consequences but he would end up okay at the end of all of it. It was likely going to suck, but he would be okay, and I still loved him regardless of whether his screen was cracked or not.
My greatest desire as a parent is to choose love more often as a response than I choose blame, because just like those small phone calls from those close to me on 9/11, love has the power to do more. We all have the power to love the people close to us, and that love has a ripple effect out into the rest of the world. While we are all trying to make sense of the tragedy in Paris, maybe the best thing we can do is to love more. You might not personally know someone who lives in Paris that had their lives upset yesterday, but your love can reach through those you do know and eventually out into those that need it the most. I don't mean postcard proclamations of love - but real I see you, I feel you, I will walk with you through something hard love, that love changes people and will solve more than any retaliation ever will.