I was all set to write a post about age when Paris happened. And now I find that there are other things that need to be said.
First, a disclaimer. Remember the old Simon and Garfunkel lyric from The Only Living Boy in New York, "I gather all the news I need from the weather report." That's me. I don't watch the news except to get the weather report and then only when bad weather is approaching; I don't regularly read a newspaper; I don't visit news related web sites. That was true of me before 9/11. For a while after 9/11 I did watch the news. Until I stopped. I subscribed to a "headline" news email which I still get (and marvel at how often the reported headline is trivial) and eventually got on Facebook, where reactions to news reports are ubiquitous. All the news I need to know still finds me, but in ways that I find to be less disruptive of my mental well being. That being said, I sometimes have to remind my husband that I don't want to hear all the details and that if there isn't something I can do to make a difference, I have to let it go. And to my Facebook friends, I rarely click on links you share, not because I don't care about what you care about, just because I struggle to limit my time on line and not following links is one way I do that.
So what do we do in the face of tragedy? And Paris is only the big tragedy of the week, in a week full of millions of life wrenching tragedies that don't make it onto the news. We sit in shock. We grieve. We hug our family and friends tighter. We remember to say "I love you."
And then we have a choice. We can sigh, shake our heads, and just go on with our lives until the next newsworthy tragedy occurs. Or we can find the smaller tragedies in our own back yard and do something to make a difference. We can chose to temper all of our interactions outside of our own four walls with what I hope we do within them: assume that everyone is doing the best they can and are coming from a place of love. Smile at that stranger on the street, use the cashier's name in conversation, help a neighbor. Build bridges wherever you can.
Because nothing I could have done could have stopped what happened in Paris. I can only influence the piece of the world within my grasp. I believe that kindness and love expressed reverberates outward like ripples in a pond. Enough ripples made by enough people can shake up the status quo and mold it into a new reality.
"Look for the helpers," Fred Rogers tells us. While most of us are not called to be the helpers at the big tragedies, we can each help in our own small ways. Look for the helpers, yes. But then be the helper.