But then another mass shooting happens, and our leaders do nothing because lobbyists and corporate greed own this country. The military "mistakenly" demolishes a hospital. Our prisons swell with the uneducated, poor, and mentally ill. And between billionaire presidential candidates who demean entire groups of people - yet grow in popularity - and anti-refugee violence amidst one of the greatest crises ever, I find it difficult not to wish bad things upon those people.
I remember the first time I felt that way after my husband was killed. I had spent months writing letters to my legislators sharing my story and begging for tougher penalties on reckless drivers whose actions result in a fatality. Can you believe it's just a misdemeanor? Some of my legislators responded with compassion, but almost all echoed the same sentiment: "Hundreds of accidents happen on Minnesota roads every day; we don't have the money or time in our courts to prosecute them all. We concentrate on those involved with drugs or alcohol, because everybody gets occasionally distracted."
So even though she (the woman who killed my husband) was on her cell phone, speeding, weaving through lanes, and operating a vehicle without a valid license or insurance when she killed him...it didn't matter to the state. It was just an "accident." Boy, did I want those legislators to lose their spouse to a reckless driver. The shakes and panic attacks that followed this level of anger were too overwhelming for me; eventually, I had to find another avenue in which to seek change.
This weekend I read that in the U.K, cell phones in cars have been banned since 2003. And as of October 1, 2015, smoking is banned with a passenger under the age of 18. I kind of want to move there. They sure seem to have their priorities in line. Here in America, the population values their own personal freedoms more than the safety of their children or neighbors. They want a gun, they want to smoke, they want to drive distracted - and fail to believe that serious injury or death may be their consequence. How many more people have to die before we stop believing that "it won't happen to us"? And when will we care that it's happening over and over again to our neighbors?
As you can tell, I was pretty upset this weekend. And certainly not proud to be an American. The world just felt really ugly.
And then, as if on cue, the universe revealed beauty and compassion. A Hindu temple in my community that suffered more than $200,000 of vandalism damage is holding a ground-breaking ceremony for its new Garden for Peace & Reflection. The 17th of October will mark 10 years since the destruction as well as the community's public forgiveness of the two offenders. The garden will sit atop the (buried) broken statues and feature water fountains, trees, and shrubs.
These people are living Gandhi's legacy.
I'm excited to go visit this garden, as well as have a conversation about it with my daughter when she's old enough to understand. As she learns to process this world, I want to talk about:
1. The importance of choosing a productive reaction.
2. The need to name and process our emotions/struggles, and the benefit to doing that before we decide to react.
3. The consequences of ugly choices.
4. The consequences of beautiful choices.
5. Acceptance that while it's really, really, really hard to change the world, there are many ways to still try, including how we talk to other people and model what we value.
6. That wanting to follow a peaceful path doesn't mean you can't be angry for a while.
7. That it's imperative we stay open to hope. Hope that calling out someone's racial comment will have positive, ripple effects. Hope that ethical leaders will be valued, elected, and supported. Hope that people don't wait to change their destructive behavior until something bad happens. Hope that a smile can save a life. Hope that we can always find beauty when the world feels ugly.
How do you process this world with your children?