Last week a gunman entered an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and killed twenty-six people, twenty of them kids. We’ve heard about these massacres in the past, and each time it happens, it’s hard to imagine something more tragic.
I can’t fathom what the parents of those kids are feeling, and I hope I never know. I do know that losing a child is the most grievous thing that can happen to a parent. I am praying for everyone affected by this tragedy and I urge you to pray for them too.
Whenever something like this happens, I wonder what kind of God would allow such a horrible thing. What was He doing and how could He have a plan that included this kind of atrocity? I’ve thought about it a lot and this is my theory. I believe that in the world, there’s a constant struggle between good and evil, or God and the devil, if you will. Sometimes – really most of the time – good wins, but sometimes evil does, and that’s what happened in Newtown. My theory may or may not be right, but it’s how I deal with things like this. And then I wonder if there’s anything I can do.
The answer is that I really don’t know the effect an average person can have, but this is what I suggest. Fill the world with good to weaken the power of evil. I know that sounds like some superhero’s creed, but it’s one thing that’s in our power. I believe that the more good that’s out in the world, the more there is for others to receive. I doubt that we can stop madmen from shooting up schools and malls and political rallies. I don’t know what would make somebody want to do it, but I support lawmakers who are advocating better help for the mentally ill. Changing the way we care for people really could help. If you don’t believe that, look how much we’ve changed our view on bullying after Columbine and suicides and all the horrible things it causes.
But for us little people, we can change the way we interact with the world. What a difference would it make in your day if you received one less flip of the bird while driving? How would it brighten your outlook if someone let you in front of them in the supermarket line? What if you were having a bad day and a stranger gave you a serious complement?
I’ve mentioned this incident before, but it’s worth revisiting. Two years ago, when I was nine months pregnant and sciatica made walking almost impossible, I went grocery shopping, and I used one of the scooters they have at the front of the store. While shopping, I bumped into a display and I apologized to the woman working on it, saying I wasn’t very good at driving the scooter. This man in his 60s – a complete stranger – walked by and growled, “Then why aren’t you walking?” Shocked, I watched him walk away, wanting to go after him and slap his face. I couldn’t. Then I got all hormonal and cried the rest of my shopping trip.
I can’t say I’m proud of either reaction, but my point is that, to say something mean to a complete stranger, that guy had to be a really unhappy person. He had serious serial killer potential, and since we breed serial killers in Seattle, it’s probably better that I didn’t slap his face. But if that’s what he put out into the world, what did he expect to get back?
There will always be people like that guy in the world. We know that, and we have no control over them. But we do have complete control over ourselves, and each one of us can be a force of good. We’ll never know how much evil we’ll cancel out by spewing good into the world, but when we say or do something nice for somebody, or refrain from running after them and slapping their face, we’ll have known we’ve made a small difference. And as more and more of us do it, the better the world will get.