We have come to a place where words falter. Hope stands on a precipice, uncertain. Our nation has been through so many instances of senseless violence, we hardly recover from one before another storms in, overshadowing the shock and sadness of the last.
The tragedy of recent days will be a mark spreading across the holiday season, affecting loved ones as well as an entire nation grown tired and bewildered by senseless violence. Two young boys told me recently they felt teachers, or at minimum principals, should have the right to bear arms in elementary schools. This is what we've come to.
An excellent Huffington Post article reaches out to grieving parents and friends, giving experienced advice on how to grieve such unspeakable loss and ways to extend comfort to others. Dr. Cara Baker states that she had a child die a sudden, violent death years ago. She warns that one never truly gets over it, but with time one learns to bear it as the grief slowly subsides.
She speaks of meaningful things said to her during that time, such as "There are no words." One close family friend wrote her child's name on an ornament and hung it on her holiday tree ... for 21 years. These gestures helped her walk through the agony and stand strong enough to help others in the end.
And the rest of us wonder what to do with this strange shadow that seems to have made its home in our beloved country in recent decades. Why do certain individuals want to harm masses of innocent defenseless people without cause? Why does personal rage become a collective experience? We need answers, a focus, a way to fight back.
A few weeks ago I worked with a group of individuals who tried to walk the streets where most of the murders in Chattanooga this year were concentrated. We prayed for the citizens of the area, we spoke hopeful things over the people. We fought with the weapons that are not of this world but can be mysteriously affective.
We all know those who fight by making connections with youth who are prone to potential violence. They engage them in activities that turn their attention to positive actions. They coach them in sports, academic achievement, the arts or spend time with them in casual mentoring. They hope that these personal connections will make an impact so deep that it lasts a lifetime.
Passionate individuals fight by volunteering weekly time in jails, teaching anger management, social skills or tutoring inmates for GED classes. These individuals are pushing back in their own unique ways, hoping to help bring about changes in the inmates so they never return to a life of crime.
So what can each of us do? We must all find a way, and then keep finding more ways. Though weary and sometimes helpless in our feelings, we must remember that famous quote by Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Just as it is better to offer a sincere but awkward bit of comfort to someone in pain rather than to avoid them altogether, it is better to make an attempt to push back the tide of what may seem overwhelming rather than sit idly by, hoping someone else will do something.
We must remember that good will triumph in the end, but it requires that we all roll up our sleeves and keep offering what we can. It may be a kind word to someone at an opportune moment, a creative idea put into action that impacts a whole classroom, school or community, or your consistent compassion for victims and even potential perpetrators of violence. All that matters is that we find a way.
Tabi Upton is a local therapist and freelance writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.