- Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
- Clementa Pinckney
- Cynthia Hurd
- Tywanza Sanders
- Myra Thompson
- Ethel Lee Lance
- Daniel L. Simmons
- Depayne Middleton-Doctor
- Susie Jackson
Mothers. Fathers. Sisters. Brothers. Friends. Neighbors. Teachers. Aunts. Uncles. You can see their pictures and read about them here.
When a bullet leaves the barrel of a gun, it doesn’t just wound the victim. It wounds the people who knew and loved that person. It wounds their friends and neighbors. It wounds their community and their city.
These wounds happen every time an act of injustice occurs, and it’s happening constantly. Every day around the world, people are killed, beaten, raped, and robbed. It happens in South Carolina, in Europe, in Africa, and in your own town. Those who love those victims are wounded, too. Their communities are wounded. These are wounds they can’t ignore, and they react, respond, and adapt to this pain, because that is what you do when you are part of a tragedy.
If we deeply felt every injustice in the world, we probably couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, so mostly we ignore them. Mostly we fail to act, to prevent, to speak up, because we don’t feel the wound we received just by virtue of being a loving and caring member of the human race when someone we don’t know is wounded.
But sometimes, there is a wound we can’t ignore. Every once in a while, we realize that tragedy transcends those directly involved. For Americans, the South Carolina hate crime is a wound we can’t ignore. We see it on our televisions. We read it on our Facebook pages. We hear it on the radio. We feel the distress of senseless pain and the fear that life is unfair and unpredictable.
As I’ve watched the reaction to this tragedy, I’ve asked myself the question, “How do you Live Generously in the midst of a community tragedy?” I don’t know if I’ve got it all worked out yet, but here are three components I think belong.
3 Keys To Responding In A Tragedy
- Feel Their Loss
- Ask, “How Can I help?”
A human being is a remarkable and sophisticated creation, but it’s also amazingly primitive. Even though the days when our biggest fear was being eaten by a Sabre Tooth Tiger are long behind us, we continue to react to feelings of fear as if it were a Sabre Tooth Tiger ready to eat us.
It is absolutely normal to feel afraid when a situation like this occurs, but you are not in physical danger at this moment. Don’t respond as if you are. Instead of pulling in to protect yourself, your family, your beliefs, this is the time to reach out– to comfort, to console, to support.
If you have not experienced a direct loss in this tragedy, this tragedy is not about you. It could have been you. But it wasn’t. It could have been your community. But it wasn’t.
There are actual people who were impacted, whose hearts are broken, right now. Feel that. Honor that. Respect that.
Hear them. Support them. Feel their pain. There is a time for telling stories, making meaning, and taking action. But it shouldn’t happen until after you’ve felt their pain and honored their loss. Otherwise, you’ve made the situation about you, and it’s not about you.
If there is any value in a community tragedy, it’s in the opportunity to remember that we are all connected and the willingness to do something to prevent this kind of pain from happening to someone else in the future.
You can ask this question of the people directly impacted by the tragedy, but do understand and respect the emotional crisis they’re in and their limitations to responding.
You can ask this question of community and religious leaders.
You can also ask this question of yourself.
How can I help? How can I soothe their pain? How can I prevent this pain from happening to others? For me, this is the most important question, because if I’m not here to help, to make this world a better place, then I don’t know why I’m here.
How do you feel about the tragedy? Just reply to this email and share with me your feelings and perspective on this tragedy and how you believe we should respond to these kind of events.