This morning as we were getting ready for our day my husband had Minnesota Public Radio streaming into our bedroom. I could only pick up a few words with one common one – AR-15. They were talking about gun control. This conversation renewed the pain I felt when I heard about the Florida shooting last Wednesday and Sandy Hook and all of the shootings in between. I have a sense of despair when I think about all of these instances. As I looked over the list of victims from last week, most of them are only a few years older than my oldest daughter. I will be sending her to a big, public high school next year. How can I not be terrified that this could happen to her?
The conversation around gun control has impacted more than just the headlines or discussions I hear in the media. It’s surfaced concerns about if and when we’ll be safe in public. I went to the movies with one of my daughters a few weeks ago and for the first few moments of sitting in that dark theater I came up with a game plan of what I’d do if a shooter came in. I wondered if the knee wall in front of us would stop bullets. I wondered if it would be better to run and try to get out while staying low or just to hide and wait.
And I wonder what to do about all of this as it seems that no one is listening.
And I wonder what to do about all of this without getting consumed by the despair and sadness of it all.
Then, I turn inward. I do know what to do. I know, at least, what I can do. I’ve been doing it all along. I listen. And I see.
Whether it is with my patients in my practice or in my church community or in my neighborhood or with my family or with my children, my job is to listen. I listen for the hurt places. I listen for those things that we keep hidden because we can’t bring them into the light. I listen for the longing. Longing for the love, compassion and understanding that wasn’t available when you were a child. I work to see and touch those hurt places, sometimes without you knowing it. I know and I can understand your hurt. I can see your pain and I still love you.
Someone doesn’t walk into a school and begin shooting because they have always been seen and heard and listened to. One doesn’t lash out in this extreme way because they feel loved, even in the hurt places.
I wasn’t ever going to be able to share my love with Wednesday’s shooter and I won’t be able to do it with the next shooter. But someone can.
What I can do is continue to touch the hurt places of those around me. I can see and understand them. I can love them anyway. If we all did this, that would be the end of gun violence. Guns are not the problem. Guns are the tool. The problem is the pain. The root of gun violence is the hurt. As a society, we need to start seeing that hurt, stop perpetuating the hurt and bring it all into the light.
The first place that this pain needs to stop is in our homes. As parents we are all guilty but we are not to blame. Not one single parent can, at every moment, provide their child with the exact mix of love, structure, discipline, snuggles and empathy that they need. Some parents strive to do the best we can with what we’ve got. Some parents can’t even begin to strive. They, as children were abandoned and haven’t the first clue as to how to connect with another human being. No matter what, there is always disconnection. The way to heal it is to keep connecting.
Keep connecting with your child. Keep seeing them. Keep trying to see the world through their eyes. Realize the impact your own childhood has on the way your parents either did or didn’t do this for you. Your child is a unique spiritual being with their own signature. They aren’t going to feel or need the same things you want or you needed as a child. Pay attention. Get to know and deeply understand your child’s signature and then be the parent they need you to be. Imagine what your world would be like if your parents had done this for you.
Gun violence ends when we are all seen, listened to, understood and loved. Please get involved with any movement or campaign that moves you. Also know that you can also begin within. Explore your own pain and hurt. Then start to see and understand the hurt places in those around you.
We need to get our hurt into the Light.