Don’t get me wrong: it’s difficult to comprehend shooting anyone. For anything. I cannot wrap my head around being so broken that I would pick up a weapon and take out so many innocent people. I’ve been angry enough to want to bitchslap a person back into the 1800s, but have never felt like I wanted someone dead.
But…that’s not even what this is about. This is about the collective pain felt around the world. I doubt unless you’ve been in that situation, you can really empathize with the victims or their families and friends, but you can still feel buried in sorrow, disbelief, anger…and impotence.
That impotence, the wanting so desperately to be able to do something for someone you can really do nothing for, I understand that. I would think that we all do, because there aren’t many people out there who haven’t wanted to reach out in a situation where one simply cannot.
In spite of the violence of this past week, I still stand firmly in my belief that most people are basically good. There is evil in this world, but more than that, there is good.
If you look hard enough, it’s all around you.
A few weeks ago, someone on reddit posted a question: what’s the nicest thing someone has done for you?
A lot of people have done a lot of nice things for me, but the one that immediately popped into my head… First off, if you’ve read my blog from the beginning, or near it, you know that I have diabetes insipidus, one of the lingering issues from a pituitary tumor in 2002. The result of that is that I am frequently thirsty. Very thirsty. It’s a violent thirst that until I experienced it, I never would have imagined it possible.
I take medication for it, but sometimes it wears off early, and I turn into a drinking and peeing machine.
One afternoon I was at Walmart, and started feeling the thirst ramp up. So on my way out, before it reached proportions of Oh Holy Hell, I stopped at the vending machine to get a soft drink. Hey, 50 cent Walmart brand diet cola-like product, not so shabby, and it would do the trick.
I stood there, wrist deep into my pocket trying to find enough change, muttering to myself because all I could feel bouncing off my fingertips were a couple of dimes and a few pennies, when this guy reached over my shoulder and dropped a couple of quarters into the machine and said it was on him.
Before I could protest—I had a dollar in my wallet and the machine took bills, too—or even really thank him, he had turned and was walking away at a pretty good clip.
This guy had no way of knowing that I wasn’t just some chubby, middle aged housewife caving into a sweet tooth and getting a sugar-laden can of crap. He had no way of knowing that I was truly thirsty, deep down painfully thirsty. He just saw someone struggling to come up with a couple of quarters, and was thoughtful enough, and generous enough, to buy her a no-return-expectations drink.
It was such a small gesture, yet for me huge in the generosity of it, that it stuck with me.
Random act of kindness.
I’ve thought about that question posed on reddit on and off since. As I recall, there were thousands of answers, but that didn’t and doesn’t surprise me. People do nice things for other people all the time, all these seemingly little things that add up to making others—and yourself—feel good.
In the last week, two major things have made us all feel horrible. You know it’s a special kind of awful when the news anchors and the President are choking back tears. You know it’s heinous when you sit there watching news you don’t want to see yet can’t turn away from, with your hands held tightly over your mouth in utter disbelief. You know it’s a collective agony when you find yourself mourning people you never had a personal connection to, crying for someone else’s children, battling the thoughts of how horrible it all is.
The shoes by the door that will never again be worn. Underwear wadded up in that little-kid way in dresser drawers that might stay there untouched for a decade. Toys left scattered in back yards that will never again be played with. Christmas presents under the tree that will be put away, never unwrapped. Laughter that will never again tease a parent’s ear.
It hurts so much because we can all connect ourselves to the idea of loss, the deep terror of losing a child, the depth of the something we never want to experience. The depth of what no parent should ever experience.
We can’t take the pain away from the parents, families, friends, spouses, and significant others of those ripped away in the last two weeks.
But we can do something.
Even little things.
Make this the week you do random acts of kindness. From tomorrow, December 17th until December 23rd, deliberately do things, large or small, for someone else.
Tip your waiters and waitresses a little bit heavy.
Make a grocery run just for your local food bank.
Wave your skepticism aside and hand over $5 to the guy on the corner with the cardboard sign.
Buy a few extra toys for Toys for Tots.
Pay for a stranger’s coffee.
Buy dinner for that young couple three tables over.
Rake the leaves in your elderly neighbor’s yard.
Visit random acts of pizza, feed someone.
Shove a couple of quarters into a vending machine for someone you don’t know, and walk away quietly.
Just for a week, make the effort to see what small things you can do for someone else.
I promise, you’ll feel good.
And if the world really does end on the 21st, well, at least you’ll go out knowing your last days were spent trying to make this a better place, even for just a few random people.
Share the idea with your friends. Let's really do this.
Kindness needs to win.