It wasn’t long before I quit my job that people started to comment on my demeanor. “She’s gone full hippy, hasn’t she?” one co-worker said to another with a chuckle. “Good for her, she’s following her dreams. I wish I could just leave,” said another.
I’m reminded of this as I struggle to wrap my mind around what is happening in our world; in our society. Seventeen individuals were gunned down in a school that is not 20 miles from where I live. Each and every day, as part of my outreach, I read stories about people murdered by their loved ones, of mass shootings where domestic violence was a precursor, and of those who take their life after struggling with depression.
People nod their head, send their prayers and good thoughts, and then go on with their life as if nothing has happened. Some get angry and try to place blame (the victim, guns, lack of mental health support, Republicans, Democrats…and the list goes on). “It’s so sad, they said he was a loose cannon.” “She has been struggling with depression her entire life, but I never thought she would kill herself.” “Something needs to give! Our lawmakers don’t care about us at all!”
Everyone has something to say, a condolence to send, or a post to write, but how many are actively doing anything to actually create change?
What does this have to do with my job or people’s reactions to me leaving it? Well, I remember thinking back then that they could leave too if they really wanted to. They could be free of the binds that society places on them. There is no rule that we have to work a set number of hours or associate with a certain subset of people (those who attend our church, those who work in the same field as we do, those who lives their lives exactly as we do). And because I was doing so, I was some sort of odd individual. I’m sure they didn’t mean to outcast me with their statements, but their hushed tones when I was not in the office did exactly that.
These “rules” that we live by are rules that we inflict on ourselves. Yes, society may tell us that these are the rules, but we accept them as so with no questions asked. When you begin asking questions, that is when you start to find your true self. It’s when you start marching to the sound of your own drum. And suddenly, you start to care a lot more about what is happening around you. You realize that the rules we inflict on ourselves are causing us more harm than good.
What are some of the rules that pertain to the topic I’m writing on today?
Rule 1: What happens at home, stays at home.
While this may hold true in some instances, silence covers a myriad of sins. Every familial abuse hides in silence (child abuse, incest, verbal abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, spiritual abuse…you name it, it flourishes in silence).
Mom smashed dishes all over the kitchen again in a fit of rage? Hush, that is no one’s business. Dad drove home from family movie night like a maniac, causing fear and tears? No one needs to know about that. Little Johnny got caught killing squirrels in the backyard on several occasions? That is something the family is dealing with. Uncle Bob molested little Susie when he came to babysit? Well, let’s just hope it doesn’t happen again.
The problem with keeping it all at home is that the problems like these do not go away. They grow, they traumatize, and they cause years of suffering and pain to innocent victims. If you are experiencing abuse in the home or watching abuse take place, the best thing you can do is seek out help from a reliable and safe entity that deals specifically in the abuses you are witnessing.
It is not an easy step, but it is one that can save you, or your loved ones, years of stress and torment or perhaps even more (Had we acknowledged that little Johnny was tormenting animals, perhaps he could have received the help needed and we could have averted him murdering a number of people when taking out his rage on animals was no longer enough).
Rule 2: It is none of your business.
But what if the abuses are taking place outside of your home. What happens in other people’s homes and families is not my business, right? Well, not necessarily.
What happens in other people’s homes and families, more often than not, affects our society as a whole.
The woman across the street you believe is abused by her husband; she is a nurse in your local ER. What happens to her at home affects her ability to perform her job. The girl you see at the school bus stop with new bruises every week; she is the one who is cornering your child in the bathroom at lunch. The teenage boy you saw on social media posing with guns and stating how tough he is; he is the next school shooter.
When we ignore the signs of abuse around us, stating that it is not our business, it becomes our business quickly. According to the CDC, intimate partner violence against women alone costs our country in excess of $5.8 billion (with a B) every year. That is just a financial loss. The non-financial toll is far higher and cannot be measured in dollar signs.
Rule 3: Just keep your thoughts to yourself (Well, until something happens…)
We are raising an entire generation of children who are being taught to keep their thoughts to themselves. Don’t insult anyone, don’t question anyone, and all behavior is excusable…until something happens. Our silence turned to outrage is spilling out into our youth. I was very discouraged by our local news coverage of the Parkland Shooting this past week. Instead of focusing on the victims or how this tragedy could have been averted (the number of red flags that were waving high and proud from this young man), they used it as an opportunity to push gun control. And, what saddened me the most, is that they are using students from the school to push this agenda.
These students should be getting therapy, working through what they saw, and learning to deal with the experiences that will come back to haunt them once all the news cameras are gone. Instead, we are teaching them to be outraged over something that will get attention and not how to deal with the atrocities they experienced. We are teaching them to take their hurt and turn it into anger. We are not teaching them how to create change in their homes, communities, or schools. We are not teaching them how to speak out before there is a crisis.
I’m using this as an example because it is clear and recent. For months (at a minimum), everyone kept their thoughts to themselves. This was a troubled boy, who had a history of depression, who sought help, who was infatuated with guns, and who tortured animals. His mother recently died, he had no support system, was on his own, wasn’t allowed to have a backpack in school, and was expelled. He was struggling and a loose cannon. Everyone knew it! Students stated how he seemed upset and depressed. People commented on how he killed animals and shot at the neighbor’s chickens. The police were called on him numerous times.
Yet, everyone went about their lives pretending it wasn’t their issue. No one spoke up. No one had anything to say about red flags, failed systems, or troubled teens. No one was fighting for this kid to get support or to be held accountable for his actions (which screamed out that something worse was to come).
Why, because we are supposed to be silent. It doesn’t concern us, he isn’t our problem, someone else will deal with him, someone else will address the issue, someone else will…..
Until they don’t. And in most cases, we are left with dead families, mass shootings, devastated communities, and children who carry scars into adulthood being told not to talk about it.
Only when the inevitable and unthinkable happens do we, as a community, stand up and share our thoughts (only the ones that are politically correct, however). Then we go back into our homes and start the cycle all over.
Rule 4: You don’t owe anyone anything.
Correct. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of how you choose to live your life, what you believe, or how you choose to pay your bills.
However, you do owe society your diligence, your kindness, and your compassion. If we could find it in ourselves to speak up, stand out, show empathy, give love, and provide support to those in need, our world would be a much better place.
When tragedy strikes, be kind. When someone disagrees, show compassion. When red flags present themselves, find out how you can help. When someone places the bait on a heated topic, show respect and understanding that their views are different. Speak from behind a keyboard as you would speak face to face. Think about how you would wish to be addressed before you begin to address a topic.
Use social media as a means to spread love, show support, and bring awareness in a way that will make you proud when you are old.
If we allowed each other some kindness, how could our world change? “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi