Twenty innocent little children gunned down as they sat in their classrooms and six brave adults killed as they tried to save them. Twelve killed and fifty six wounded in Aurora Colorado when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people who were simply watching a movie. During the Virginia Tech school massacre, thirty two were killed and seventeen were wounded. In my own community, three students were killed and one seriously wounded when a fellow high school student opened fire at Chardon High School. How do we make sense of it all?
When catastrophic tragedies strike and then strike again, a feeling of helplessness can settle deep inside all of us. We try to manage the feeling in a variety of ways.
First, we search for a motive—a rational explanation for why and how somebody could do such a thing? Were the gunmen mentally ill? Were they loners who had been victims of bullying or social isolation? What was the source of their anger and rage? No answers will be definitive nor will they satisfy us.
Then we seek out solutions to fix the problem through debates over sensible gun control, better mental health care and improved security measures. But in the end none of it really lifts the heavy weight of our own fears and the sense that we have lost control.
So what can we do with this feeling of helplessness? Survivors of tragedies often report that the kindness and support of strangers helped get them through the most painful days and weeks that followed. They also found that when they reached out to help other victims they were better able to cope with their own pain.
Performing #26 acts of random kindness that was inspired by Ann Curry may be the beginning of gaining control and restoring our faith in humanity. One kind gesture can create a ripple effect and inspire others to do the same. In fact, the human brain and nervous system is wired for cooperation and kindness. It is necessary for our basic survival. This explains in part why we tend to feel anxious and stressed when we don’t show compassion, kindness or gratitude. Acts of kindness may be just the medicine that we all need during this painful time.