My heart is sore. Sore from the senseless loss of life from yet another mass shooting. Sore for the pain of victims’ families, friends, teachers, neighbors, and church families. Sore for the heightened fear and dread of children and teachers, of parents who wonder whether their child will be safe in school today. Sore for a country in the grip of a deadly epidemic of gun violence.
We live in a time when we are impacted as never before by traumatic events. We are connected by instant social media to just about every place in the world. We can watch events transpire, sometimes in real time, as they are filmed by cell phones. We sometimes even have a victim’s-eye-view. Our minds, bodies, and spirits react to these things as though they were happening to us.
All this trauma takes its toll. It is a cumulative toll, which can result in a wide variety of symptoms: hypervigilance; the feeling you just can’t do enough; bone-deep exhaustion; cynicism, anger, and rage; the need to numb out through alcohol, drugs, distractions, or building emotional walls.
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, the founder and director of the Trauma Stewardship Institute, suggests that instead of building walls, “The world needs you to do what makes you come alive. Your exquisite unique presence is the one thing most needed to disrupt the systematic oppression in the world, and can transform the trauma that is arising all around us.”
We hurt. We hurt because we care, because feeling unsafe is an awful thing, because children are the most innocent of victims. Let us honor their memory with yes, our thoughts and prayers, and also by becoming increasingly present to the world. Let us be present to one another as we discuss how this wave of violence can be interrupted. It is a topic that has many sides, many voices, many high emotions. Let us not avoid our pain by shaming, shutting down the conversation, or giving up. Let us engage, let us listen, let us keep an open mind.
And always, let us again and again bring our exquisite, unique, loving presence to the world.
Rev. Lynda Sutherland
First Parish Church Unitarian Universalist