Letter 33 - When Tragedy Keeps Striking

You may think your light is smalll,

When Tragedy Keeps Striking

I wrote a letter in 2016 called “When Tragedy Strikes” after 50 people were killed in a night club shooting, I again sent it out after a shooting at an outdoor concert, and again at the beginning of the pandemic and I was saddened to be sending it out again today…. 

My previous letter said that “When tragedy strikes, no matter if it involves yourself, a loved one, someone you know, across the nation, or across the globe, we inescapably feel some type of strong emotion.

We can feel a sense of loss of security, immense sadness and grief, and sometimes we feel anger and hate. Tragedy can make us feel alone, like we are the only ones who shoulder the burden. It can make us want to pullback from society to protect ourselves and those we love.”

But what happens when we are expected to endure tragedy after tragedy, without recovering from the previous one?  It feels like lately we are inundated with terrible news both locally and abroad and with them comes new consequences – a feeling of numbness and lack of shock.

We live in a time when the news and social media feeds are filled with incomprehensible violence, crises on global scales, and hate that is impossible to understand.  Our emotions have hit their limit and as a safety precaution we have become desensitized to the pain and suffering of our fellow human beings.

We feel powerless when situations are not within our immediate ability to make a difference and as an outcome, we detach ourselves from the outside world as a defense mechanism. This apathy may keep us personally protected, but it does not come without impact.  Apathy diminishes our sense of belonging, compassion, and our ability to connect to those around us and our community. 

I cannot dispute that there are a lot of terrible things going on, and I am not immune from shying away from the discomfort of what is occurring.  BUT, there are a lot of really great things and great people as well that can help break through our numbness. We can reconnect, strengthen our community, check on our neighbors, and become more engaged.  It’s not easy, but we need to “figuratively” plug back into the world that we have disengaged from.

 Here are some thoughts on how:

1)   Community Events: Join us at one of our events, come together with your fellow citizens, and simply be with people and remember the importance of human connection.

2)   Volunteer: I know I have said it time and again, but the benefits of volunteering are not just for the organization you are helping - they are for you too.  Making new friends is great, helping your community feels good, and giving back is intrinsically rewarding.

3)   Communicate: This one can be a hard one, but having open and honest communication whether its face to face or in a virtual space can rehumanize the things we are facing and help navigate to find solutions. I challenge you if you can, to bring in new people to the discussion and solicit different views for a more robust conversation.

4)   Practice Self Care:  I’m not talking about yoga and meditation –unless that’s your thing (you do you). But making sure you take the time to do what you need to do - to be able to support yourself so you can then support others.  And if the first thing you try doesn’t help with stress management, try something else… don’t give up on yourself.  If you need suggestions - we have tons of classes to try.

These steps seem simple, and they are, but consider them a start.  They’re a good beginning to figure out how to get back to that feeling of belonging and reconnection.  Singularly we can feel numb, but together we can break through that and rekindle much needed compassion.  There are no simple solutions or quick fixes, but we are not useless and the more we bring together the bigger the impact we can have.  

Check on your family, ask your neighbors how they are doing, and question how your kids are feeling? Start by asking and then actually stop to listen. Don’t let an “I’m fine” or “it’s all good” or “just another day in paradise” suffice.  Let’s look up from our phones or put down whatever we are doing and truly connect with each other.

We can’t stop tragedies, but we can start to be a community that cares deeply for one another and supports each other through it.

Letter from the Director #33

Jennifer Wills