With the tragic school shooting that took place this past week in Texas, as well as multiple shootings that have taken place in grocery stores, churches, even outside the McDonalds that I made many trips to while at college in Chicago, the news and social media have been full of conflicting opinions on how to make changes to prevent these things from happening so often. What has come to light once again is that we as a country are deeply divided: we talk past each other, we assume the worst in the opposite view and we think sharing a post or image on our story or feed will make the change we want to see.
But what if there was a way to actually make a change, not just post about it? What if there was a way to move past the back and forth on social media or the polarizing news opinions? What if there was a way that even if you disagree on how to make a change with someone, both of you can actually make the change?
As a follower of Jesus, I take to heart His Words and the words from the Bible. One such bible verse that has been impressed on my heart this week is 1 John 3:18 which states "Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth."
All of us can agree that no one wants to see innocent children, teachers, people in our community be killed; no one wants that. Our hearts grieve and mourn for those families and we do pray for their comfort and strength as they face a reality they would've never wanted to face in a million years.
Yet it's our ideas as to how we make that change so that the above reality isn't a reality...that's what causes us to fight one another. And this fighting leads to frustration, pointing fingers, blaming anyone and everyone and ultimately, nothing being accomplished. But what if we truly believe that our actions, rooted in our love for our fellow human, could actually make a difference...even if we strongly disagree about what actions needed to take place? I wholeheartedly believe that it can, but we have to be willing to stop scrolling, stop browsing, stop commenting, stop online debating and start actually doing something!
What does this look like?
All these examples below are ones I have read about over the past couple of days, I didn't come up with a single one, just listened and read:
If you believe gun control laws (or lack thereof) is the top issue, then get on the phone, call your local or state representative, and let your voice be heard. Tell them the need for more background checks, older minimum ages for gun ownership, etc. If you feel led to peacefully protest, then join with others and make your belief amplified with the voices of others.
If you believe mental health is the top issue, then begin to invest in the next generation of kids and students as a mentor in an after school program, serving in kids or student ministry at your church or volunteer at your children's school so you can be a positive influence on kids. Speak to the medical insurance industry and legislative leaders to let them know that counseling costs in the schools and in private practices should be covered or have low cost deductibles like physicals.
If you believe the lack of armed security at schools is the top issue, then talk with your school boards and superintendents and let your voice be heard so that your tax dollars are used to provide police officers on campus and greater levels of protection at your kids' school. Run for or vote for those on school boards to make those changes a reality.
If you believe the negative impact that social media and violent video games have on kids is the top issue, then be the uncool parent who doesn't let their kid get a smartphone until high school, has their passwords and passcodes for every technological device and doesn't let them play first-person shooting games even when "all their friends" have a phone and "all their friends" are playing these games.
If you believe that fatherlessness or lack of parent engagement is the top issue, then be present in your own kids' lives to help them through their difficult situations and then look to care for the kids in your community who don't have parents who are actively involved. Give extra attention, support and resources (yes, you're money and time) to the kids of single parents in your community and empower those families.
If you believe (fill in the blank) is the top issue, then (fill in the blank) and make the change. And then...
Actively listen to others who don't believe the top issue is the same top issue as yours.
Don't rip into them over social media, don't follow the cues of our political leaders who have more "conversations" over Twitter than they do in D.C., but actually have conversations, face to face, where you can listen to their perspective. Humble yourself and make the space and time in your schedule to gather people, attend meetings, invest in your community and schools and just listen. You may be surprised that when you're face to face with someone with a completely opposing view and actively listen to them, you may actually agree with some of their ideas or reasons. Remind yourself that they too want the same thing: protecting innocent lives.
And you may be skeptical of that above sentence and think "does that person with the opposing solution actually care, first and foremost, about protecting innocent lives?" I get it, I feel and think that sometimes too, but I also know we're all flawed humans; our motives (my motives) aren't 100% pure all the time. So if you want people to believe the best in you, start to believe the best in others. Or as Jesus would say "Love your neighbor as yourself."
We all can make a difference, make a change, today. No matter what your political or religious views are, we can all do a little more loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving others with our actions. Let's all encourage one another to take this first step in this journey of making a positive change in our society and culture.
And if you don't agree with what I wrote or how I view this...that's ok. You can disagree with me and still make a difference...I'll applaud your effort to make the change ;-)