I do not often write about current events, but the school shooting in Connecticut has been on my mind a lot since Friday. I am sure I am not alone.
As a psychology instructor and mental health professional, my mind initially formulated an argument that this is far from a gun control issue, but instead is a mental health parity issue. After all, it is no secret that our nation is wholly underinsured, and that mental health education and treatment continues to take a backseat.
Fortunately, I didn’t have time yesterday to share my thoughts about it, and today, a surprising (to me) perspective evolved.
While we do need better access to quality mental health care, as well as different versions of gun control in our country, it occurred to me that what our nation needs more than any of that, is hope at an individual level. With each of us truly feeling this hope, the need for the above would lessen.
If you were like me, you continued to watch the media coverage unfold. You also likely saw that our President, the Governor of Connecticut and the community leaders of Newtown called out for hope, love and compassion.
Children, for us, represent the very hope I believe we need. We are angered that these innocent little ones were taken away in such a way.
Yet, another community is banding together through a tragedy. I see this as an illustration of what is good in our society. Unfortunately, it took a tragedy for the media to show us this illustration, but what have we focused on instead from what we are being seen as a steady diet of news coverage?
Rightfully and appropriately, we all likely gave some considerably energy to thoughts such as, “What is this world coming to?” and “If an elementary school isn’t safe, where is?” or “He got off easy by taking his own life.” I certainly did.
But did we also notice that a Rabbi and a Catholic priest were working together to help the grief stricken? Did we notice the residents (whether they knew one another or not) gathered together, hand in hand, arm in arm, embracing and wiping each other’s tears? What about the acts of heroism by the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary to protect the children at the cost of their own lives?
We each need hope that what is at the core of humanity is still out there, and it seems that even in the rawness of this tragedy, hope is abundant. As we talk about the senselessness of the tragedy with others, I believe we are again faced with a choice in what we perpetuate.
Do we focus more on the love and the hope that is illustrated as a result of the tragedy? Or do we perpetuate the anger and fear that the nature of this tragedy evokes in us more? It is normal to see that both exist within this situation, but I believe the one we focus our energies on the most can make a difference in how all of us, as a nation, move forward from it.