I’m writing this column the day after the Las Vegas shooting. As I was going back through some of my columns, I saw that several were written just after a horrific event, and it broke my heart. This country has been hit by three hurricanes and the worst mass shooting in history all in the space of a month.
But here’s the saddest part of all: As the news was talking about Las Vegas, someone mentioned the Ariana Grande concert in London where a mass shooting occurred and I thought to myself, “Oh yeah. I had forgotten about that.”
And that is part of the problem. As humans, we can only store so much sadness and gloom. We have to move on or we will end up stuck in a bad place. But that doesn’t really help those who are still living with their tragedy. So how do we keep ourselves mentally healthy while still attending to all the misery around us?
First, sending thoughts and prayers is a good thing, but it must be followed up with action. If it is a personal tragedy, then follow up with the person on a regular basis and ask, “How has this week (or day or month) been for you?” And then listen. Most of the time, all you can do is listen and give a hug, but it may just be what the person needs from you. If it is a natural disaster, donate to UMCOR and make flood buckets, hygiene kits or any of a number of other needs that you can find on the website. But don’t forget the people who continue to live in devastation just because another disaster has come along.
Work for justice. Work for laws that enforce the homebuyer’s right to be told about being in a flood plain, which many people in Houston were not told. Ask for laws that weed out shyster roofers and contractors who show up after a natural disaster. Talk about mental health issues and ask your representatives to take them seriously. Give voice to those who have no voice: small children killed in school, domestic violence victims, children growing up in violent and abusive homes, and those who live in slavery (and yes, this is still a very real problem).
The list goes on, so it is up to you to decide where to put your energy.
But most of all, never ever give up hope for a better world. In Isaiah 40:30 we are told, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
We know God is still with us even in this crazy, mixed-up world, so we continue to hope and be joyful. God is with us — we are not alone.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
And that’s Good News!