It seems you cannot turn on the television or read the newspaper without some aspect of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., being retold, memorialized or debated. And yet, despite all of the discussion and story-telling, there are hardly adequate words to describe the scope and depth of this tragedy: heartbreaking, unbelievable, devastating, senseless. Sorrow and outrage seem to be the most commonly described feelings. The pain is unlimited.
Such a horrifying event sparks an enormous amount of debate about the state of our society. Violence is given an abundance of press. Personally, it leads me to reflect on the day-to-day tragedies we experience in our cities on a regular basis. That does not diminish the devastation in Connecticut. It simply compels me to acknowledge that we have smaller, daily heartbreaks in our own cities.
The last time I wrote a My View column was shortly after eight people were shot outside a downtown Buffalo restaurant. It was another horrible event, where violence prevailed. And again, another time where I was forced to wonder how we can make a difference to change the culture of violence and despair in our world.
The legacy left to all of us from this slow, day-to-day violence is painful. It wears us down and can create an attitude of helplessness and hopelessness. Have we given up on each other and our community? Or do we think that through changes in our hearts, minds and actions, we can create a new future with less violence?
When I take a good look inside myself, I realize I have a lot of work to do in 2013. Many aspects of my own character – how I look at the world and treat others – are things I should try to improve upon. For me, I must look within to make changes and then outwardly live my life in a way that contributes positively to my family, neighbors, friends and community.
What if we all looked within before finding fault or laying blame outside of ourselves? What if we all committed to take an extra step toward kindness, compassion, forgiveness and respect? What if we all reflected before we reacted and made decisions based upon what is the right thing to do for the common good, rather than just ourselves?
I cannot help but wonder what could happen if we all made a conscious effort to change one thing within ourselves: would that have a domino effect of positive change?
Make no mistake; such a challenge is not easy. Change never is. I have to constantly make an effort to choose the higher road, make a better choice, act in a kinder, less judgmental way. Many times I do not succeed. The attempts at personal change and the complexities of community problems are great and can be intimidating.
I am not naive enough to think that difficult challenges will ever go away completely. And yet, just like heroes and heartwarming stories bring some hope and sense to Newtown’s experience, I believe that making conscious choices to improve our small sphere of influence can collectively make a huge impact in the larger community.
My prayer in 2013 is that, regardless of our differences, we find a way to accept and respect each other. I pray that we can understand the power of our individual words and actions and use them for a greater good. And I pray that we do not give up on each other.