Some mornings, you wake up and you just know it’s going to be a hard day.
Yesterday morning, well before the fog of sleep had lifted, I sat on my couch gawking at the TV screen, tears rolling down my face.
Now, just to be clear, crying isn’t anything out of the ordinary for me. I’ll be the first to admit that I cry a lot.
I cry during Disney movies or even when listening to music; I cry when others have been wronged or treated unjustly, when people or animals are abused, and when strangers are sad or struggling. I cry when I read the vitriol that people like to spew at one another behind the veil of the internet where they think others won’t attach their names to their sinister petulance.
So hopefully it comes as no surprise that I have a particularly soft spot for innocents whose blood is shed in the name of hatred. In the name of intolerance. Or worse, in the name of “religion” or some semblance of it.
Yesterday, I cried first for the victims of the Orlando massacre and their families. Then I cried once again for the loss of humanity that each of these tragedies inevitably brings. For the fact that the loss of so much life at once has actually become commonplace in our “great” country.
The arguments from both sides of the gun control debate sprout up long before the blood is even dry.
Fingers point every which way except for back at ourselves, and most prominently toward the elusive “others” our government has so meticulously devised.
So blinded are we by our self-righteousness that we forget momentarily that the lives lost only hours ago were those of our brothers and our sisters, our mothers, fathers, and cousins. We forget that the lives lost on our own soil, their blood spilled by one of our own, had weight and meaning. Had purpose and promise.
Every last one of those lives was precious, and the people who knew and loved them are now experiencing something we ourselves hope to never experience, something we fear we ourselves could never withstand.
Why, then, is it so easy for us to continue to treat each other unkindly? To point fingers, assign blame, and never so much as raise our eyes to the mirror?
How is it so easy for us to forget that our words matter just as much as our actions? That the attitudes that we put forth into the world are contagious, and so we must very carefully curate and cultivate those attitudes?
I do my best to be kind. I do my best to approach every situation with an open mind and empathy. It’s not always easy, and believe me, I don’t always get it right.
But I aim to be a little bit better every day. To react a little less harshly to the things I don’t understand and the viewpoints I don’t agree with, and to ask questions so that I might understand a little more.
In the wake of this tragedy, the worst mass shooting in US history (a title I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around), I want to scream. I want to punch through walls, kick down doors, and demand “WHY HAVEN’T WE FUCKING CHANGED?!?”
And you know what I think the answer is? Why fucking nothing has changed, more than 90,000 gun-related deaths after the Sandy Hook massacre that took place not even four years ago?
We have all become cynical.
We’ve become cynical of each other and of the world. We are not sure kindness exists anymore, and so we resist from doling it out ourselves, assuming (wrongly) that it will never come back to us anyway.
Sometimes, I’m not sure kindness exists anymore myself. If it does still exist, it’s sure as hell no one’s top priority.
But the funny thing about kindness is, it starts with us. We cultivate it, we give it, we spread it. It’s contagious. If I want more kindness in my life, it must first come from within.
When we cultivate cynicism, we spread cynicism.
When we cultivate contempt, we spread contempt.
When we cultivate intolerance, we spread intolerance.
We have nothing to be gained from spreading these ideologies, and everything to lose.
But there is nothing to be lost from cultivating and spreading kindness, and everything to be gained.
There is no “us” versus “them” in this gun debate; it is currently us against ourselves. We must turn to our neighbors, look them in the eye, put our egos aside, and tell them “You matter.”
No matter what they look like, no matter their creed.
In this individualistic society, we’ve forgotten how to take care of one another, and we’ve forgotten why it’s even important. Who wouldn’t be cynical in a society comprised entirely of strangers?
In these moments of weakness, we often want to take the easy route–to give in to our anger, resentment, and fear. But even when we think we have nothing left to lose, the truth is, we still have everything to lose.
In times like these, when all we want to do is kick and scream and cry and be angry, all we can really do is be kind. All we can do is cultivate more of what we want to see in this world, knowing that it will spread to those around us.
So, today and every day after it, for the sake of humanity, be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Even when you don’t want to be, and even when you are angry or sad.
It’s all we can do, and it just might make all the difference.