Let me start off this post with a disclaimer: yes, I am going to reference the Florida school shooting. I am not trying to empathize with the shooter or rationalize what he did. My heart is broken for the victims, their families, the survivors, and the community. He ruined the lives of so many people and the horrific nature of his actions is not lost on me.
Now that we got that out of the way…. There’s been a lot of talk about solutions. Stricter gun laws. Arming teachers. Armed guards in schools. More money for mental health. Lots of debate on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Lots of hatred towards people who don’t share the same view. Especially between gun activists vs. anti-gun activists. I don’t pretend to know the solution and I don’t prefer to talk politics, on here or on any other social platform. I don’t believe there is any one solution; I think that a number of things could work together to reduce the number of school shootings. I don’t know the answer to the problem, but I do know that there is a lot of hate in this country and in the world today. There is a lot of bullying, a lot of stigmatization of mental illness, a lot of people who feel completely alone. I have to wonder: what would happen if we just loved each other more?
Okay, don’t roll your eyes. I’m definitely not naive enough to think ‘peace and love’ is going to save the world or anything. I’m not saying that we don’t need policy change or better mental health care. Because we do, don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying, how much love are you putting out into the world on a day-to-day basis? Have you smiled at a stranger today? Paid someone a compliment you didn’t have to give? Checked up on a friend that you knew was struggling? Put some extra money in a parking meter? Told your mom you loved her? How much of your day was spent focusing on making the world around you a tiny bit better?
I see hate and isolation everywhere. People can’t have a civil discussion without it erupting into hateful insults. People don’t take the time to ask the cashier how her day is or say thank you when someone holds the door for them. Good, polite manners aren’t as common as they used to be. Smiling at a stranger walking down the street might get you a weird look instead of a smile back. People walk around with their heads down, buried in the phones or lost in their own worlds, without looking up to interact with the world and the people around them.
The shooter in Florida had been expelled. His mother had died. By all media accounts, he was clearly suffering from mental illness. Had anyone reached out to him? Did he have any friends checking up on him? Would it have made a difference if a stranger had done a random act of kindness for him? Who knows. Probably not. I’m not saying that he wasn’t to blame and that he isn’t a monster who should be held accountable for his actions. I’m just wondering… what made him that way? What could have been done to prevent him from walking in that school and murdering innocent school kids and teachers? What can we do as a society to help people who feel isolated and angry? What can we do to spread more love and less hate in this world?
Like I said, I believe we need policy change. I believe that mental health care in this country needs more attention and more money. I don’t believe that there is any justification or rationalization for taking an AR-15 and murdering innocent people. I don’t believe that love itself is going to stop school shooters. But, I also believe that on the small scale, we as individuals can do something every day to make the world a little less hateful. Do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return. Hold the door. Smile at a stranger. Let people know they’re appreciated. Call your grandma. Pay someone a compliment. Buy the coffee for the car behind you. Stand up for someone when you hear them being bullied or made fun of. Tell someone a joke to make them laugh. Listen to people without judgment. Forgive someone without them asking for it. Send a text to a friend to let them know you’re thinking about them. Refuse to engage in negative conversations with gossip and insults. Scroll past that Facebook post you don’t agree with if you don’t think you can engage in a civil discussion. Love people instead of judging them. Put more positive energy out into your community and the world. You never know how one small action could make a person’s day or change their life.
These little things might not seem important, but what if every single person in the country did ONE nice thing per day for someone around them? Do you think it would make a difference then? Do you think we, as a country, would learn to love each other more and fight a little less? Do you think there would be less hatefulness, less arguing, less negativity? It might help, it might not. Alls I’m sayin’ is, I don’t think it could hurt.