As I dutifully patrolled the internet, seeking updates and answers - a hopeless lamentation stood out to me, something along the lines of, "it's exactly what we should expect in a terminally ill society." It was a frequent refrain.
Terminally. ill. society.
What does that even mean? Does it mean that we need to get on down to hospice and start palliative care because there's no hope? Do we need to administer some pain killers and dull our senses so that we can be comfortable while we wait for the end?
Nope. I don't buy it.
A terminally ill society would not have teachers who spend countless time and personal resources educating and inspiring our children.
A terminally ill society would not have citizens voluntarily contribute over $358 billion dollars to nonprofit organizations in a single year.
A terminally ill society would not have over 9,000 people annually donating bone marrow to save other people's (including perfect stranger's) lives.
A terminally ill society would not have infrastructure in place to ensure that more than 730 million commercial passengers fly safely each year.
Comparing now to previous decades, we know that we live longer. Less of us drive drunk. We have less air pollution. We're less likely to be injured at work. Children are more likely to make it to their 5th birthday. People are more likely to think outside of the box to find ways to help the poor. We are less likely to be victims of violent crime.
These are not the characteristics of a terminally ill society.
Of course, that last one is hard to swallow on a day like today, the day after a terribly violent crime. But on the great big aggregate, it's true. There are billions of people out there every day, trying to do what's right. There are billions of people who try to make the world a better place. There are billions of people looking out for each other, and trying to keep each other safe. It is certainly a monumental task that we have before ourselves, and it's easy to fall prey to hopelessness and fatalism. There will certainly be heartache on our journey. It's understandable that we might feel like giving up, especially when it seems like what is in front of us is always so negative.
Don't give up.
Rather, refuse to watch the videos of the shootings. Refuse to say the perpetrator's name. Step away from your rubbernecking Twitter feed, and focus on bringing your light to the darkness in the world. Celebrate people that do good. Try to do some good yourself. Look out for your neighbor. Extend perfect strangers common courtesies and treat them with respect. Be kind to people who are different from you. Put down your phone and genuinely connect with people face-to-face. Get some exercise. Meditate. Pick up trash. Volunteer. Reach out to a child.
Each and every time you do these things, the world is a little brighter. The "good" statistics will get better. Our communities will be stronger. And the darkness will dim.
Yesterday was a tragedy, but saying that our society is terminally ill as a response is a travesty. Don't ignore the good, my friends. Alison Parker's boyfriend described her as "the most radiant woman I ever met." Yes, we need to fix our gun laws and we need better mental health services. Hopefully that will happen expeditiously. In the meantime, however, let's honor Alison and Adam. I challenge you to tap into your own inner radiance. You are capable of shining so bright.