These are just three tragic news stories I have heard this week:
- Eight Douglas County, Colorado, teenage students have ended their own young lives within the past few months.
- Across Colorado, more than 100 people have been killed by hit-and-run drivers between 2008 and 2012.
- Elephants are being poached at such a high rate that it is expected they will be extinct in just over a decade.
Why don’t they do something? Isn’t that what we ask ourselves when we hear news like this? I often do. And then I move on about my own life, hoping someone, somewhere, does something. I become a part of the hit-and-run mentality that allows us to elbow our way through our days, focused only on our own agendas and oblivious to those we impact on our way.
How has it become commonplace that young people can be so lost and isolated by their own hopelessness that they cannot imagine a tomorrow that might be better than today? What is it that has made us so detached from our own humanity that more and more of us can run over another human and simply drive on? What is it within us that has made us believe it is our right to massacre nearly an entire species so that we can have trinkets made of ivory?
I don’t know if there is any real hope that we humans can reverse the trends we have created, but I do know this. There is no “they” that will do it for us. “They” don’t exist, and never did. Every single human on this planet, each of us, is responsible for how we impact the lives around us. How we carry ourselves through our days will either make the planet and its inhabitants better off, or worse.
I admit that I am guilty of seeing “other people” as obstacles. They get in the way when I am trying to get somewhere. Elderly people are slow in the grocery line ahead of me, and I can get annoyed that I have to wait an extra minute or two for them to gather their things. Other people’s children can seem noisy and needy and bothersome. Teenagers can look like gangs of troublemakers when they are standing on the sidewalk and I want to get through.
If you aren’t guilty of this too, ever, no need to read further. But if you are, why don’t we decide that from this moment forward we are going to be part of something that heals; other people, other living things, and maybe even ourselves.
Let’s decide that when we are out in the world, we will see ourselves as vitally connected to every person we see. Let’s imagine that we are members of the same family, facing possible extinction ourselves if we don’t care for each other. When we see others, let’s look in their eyes and their faces, searching for what connects us as if that one thing might save us. When we see others, lets pretend that we might be the only two people left alive on the planet, and our survival depends on our taking care of each other.
When we hear of others in need, of any species, let’s imagine that our survival depends on their survival, and then act as we would if that were true. Because it is. Let’s act, speak out, advocate, and do whatever we can to help others who can’t help themselves.
When we are out in the world, moving through our everyday lives, let’s decide that how we interact with other people, our smile, our words, our kindness, might just give them enough hope to stay alive one more day to meet one more person who will show them love and care.
I believe that we can become paralyzed by the amount of tragedy in the world and our inability to answer all of it at once. We hear the sheer numbers of lives lost and we pull our heads into our shells and hope that “they” will fix things, and we go on about our own agendas. In this way we become more and more detached from each other and what connects us.
So let’s imagine we are “they.” Because we are. So let’s get busy.
Chris Lewis, Ed.S., LPC is a therapist who specializes in Marriage and Family Therapy in Denver, CO. She provides individual, couples, and family therapy through Maria Droste Counseling Center.