When tragedy strikes, what can we learn?


Yesterday Cincinnati joined the ranks of US cities afflicted with a senseless mass shooting.   People unrelated to the gunman, cut down because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the heart of our downtown.  I was walking outside two blocks away at the exact moment, blissfully unaware of the horror others were facing.

How are we to make sense of such tragedies?   Is there something we are supposed to learn?

I don’t pretend to understand how to make “sense” of such killings.  But learning, that’s something I can discuss.

Now I’m not about to go into the gun debate here, that’s for others in another space.  What are we to learn about life?  

In my tradition there is a question, “Who is wise?”  One answers is, “He who learns from everyone.”  There must be something to learn, about life, even now or in the dozen of other cities where such tragedies have occurred.

I believe what we can learn is to make sure we love.

We all know there are no guarantees in life, but because it’s easier to mindlessly move through our day than to contemplate that fact, we forget to love.  We forget to say the words, do the actions, and show compassion to all of those we come in contact with on a daily basis.  

As a therapist I hear over and over again how it’s the little things people remember that affect them greatly— positively or negatively.  They add up.  Make your words count.  When dispensing judgement or advice, do it with chesed, the Hebrew word for lovingkindness.  

Demonstrate love, and gratitude, by living each day with kindness.  With every interaction there is an opportunity to impact someone in a small but powerful way. How many negative interactions did the killer have in his life before one pushed him over the edge? 

Love every day.  Start with yourself.   Then let it radiate throughout the universe, ripple through time and space, and change the world, one soul at a time.

Mark Levine1 Comment