I don’t know how to heal France.
The Facebook memes are flying, and the French flag covers everyone’s faces. I am not politically astute or well-versed on world politics, and I’m not a religious scholar. But I’m pretty sure that a new Facebook app or a trending hashtag probably isn’t enough.
If participating in the social media outpouring offers solace or a feeling of solidarity, I don’t judge that. But for me, it mostly seems like a temporary way to make ourselves feel better. And maybe that’s okay.
I don’t know how to stop ISIS.
Ranting with outrage and sadness, cathartic though it may be, doesn’t seem to offer much hope or substance.
Hating all religion seems illogical. Religion has rightly been blamed as a catalyst for violence, yet also relied upon as a source of immeasurable comfort to millions throughout the most painful moments in human history.
Invoking one religion over another doesn’t seem right either. How will more hate and blame fix anything?
My reflex is to binge-watch sitcoms on Netflix. Laugh. Escape. Medicate. But that’s just a deep, dark spiral toward over-referencing dated shows and too much snacking.
So what should I do? What can we do?
A quote from an unexpected source struck a nerve and echoed wise words from an old childhood friend, Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’
That feels right. Small, maybe, but at least it doesn’t seem useless or incendiary. What if we went a step beyond and copied the helpers?
How? Where? Well, I don’t know anyone in France. I’ve never even been to France. But there are people there helping each other, taking in neighbors, hugging strangers, crying together, offering comfort.
Help someone nearby, someone you know, or someone you don’t. Help with something big or something small. Help one time, for one minute. Or help for an hour or a day or a week.
Our energy is either positive or negative. You choose what you spread.
Spread hope. Infect people.
Babysit for a new mom, or an old tired one. Rake leaves, shovel a driveway, send a note to a crabby aunt, or a piece of pie to the lonely guy down the street. Offer your seat on the train, a smile, or a compliment to a stranger on the sidewalk.
Become temporarily inconvenienced.
Delete negative postings. Don’t argue. Don’t try to convince. Seek first to understand.
I don’t know what the appropriate military response should be. I have no expertise on how to strategically stop attacks in other cities.
I love the idea of America sending assistance, but I don’t relish sending our soldiers. That means my niece and my child’s oldest friend and a classmate’s son would all be put in harms way.
But if troops are sent, support them, encourage them, respect them.
I have no public platform to influence world opinion. If I went on a hunger strike demanding world peace, approximately seven people would care.
But I can do good in my house, on my street, in my town. So I’ll be on the lookout for that.
Don’t watch all nine seasons of The Office three times in less than a month. (But do watch it. Steve Carell is amazing, and Pam and Jim? My heart can’t take it!)
Don’t accept hate. Don’t allow despair. Don’t invite rage.
We’re all swirling molecules of energy. Maybe our molecules never make it all the way to France; there are many other places I’ve longed to visit first. But if we all help someone closer to home, and that person someday visits France, maybe just maybe . . .