Mom, please meet them at the gate. I will do what I can here.
My mom was gifted to this world as a vessel of love. A life-long teacher, she gave every ounce of her being to the children who passed through her class, decade after decade. She walked the world as a magnet for the fearful, sick, and wounded. Strangers from all walks of life approached her on the streets and cried on her shoulder. As her daughter, it was moving…and sometimes just plain strange. They would tell her their hidden truths. They would let her tend to their deepest wounds. She would hold the hand of the terminally-ill woman in the grocery-store line. She would smile with compassion and listen intently to the subway station attendant who was having a shitty day. She would hug the man loitering at the mall, her pink, glittery sweater an odd contrast to his robe of piercings, blue Mohawk, and glazed over eyes — it seemed as if she knew his dad had once beaten him to near death well before he told her.
When my mom was ripped from this world, I stopped believing in a loving God or Universe. It made no sense to take such an immense source of love away from a world so badly hurting. I did not understand.
I did not understand…until I did. On December 14, 2012, I sat on my knees in my office, clinging to my chest as my eyes rained tears. Twenty-six lights extinguished. Twenty of them had lit beautiful, loving children. It was as though my body was transported to Sandy Hook Elementary School, and I was standing next to the parents, weeping with them.
I cried until I vomited. I didn’t know what to do. So, I did something I hadn’t done since my mother’s death. I prayed.
“Mom, please meet them at the gate.” It was the only thing I understood. It felt like the only thing I could do.
And then it happened again. So many lights extinguished. Again. And again. And again…just 2 days ago.
That I’ve been brought to my knees to say this prayer as many times as I have rips my heart to shreds. My prayer is how I absorb the pain without allowing it to consume me. It is how I digest the tragedy without poisoning my soul. I close my eyes and picture her wrapping their souls in her warmth…her pink, sparkly glow that I saw so many times here on earth. It is OK; she will take them from here.
But, we are still here. Who takes us from here?
I write this today because you sit here with me on your knees, crying too. I see you. I don’t know how to help you other than to share the questions I’m asking myself. To coach you as I coach me.
Who takes us from here?
I do. You do. We do.
How do we take us from here?
Through our gifts or resources. Through our voices or actions. Through our love. Through what we have to give. In our homes or communities. At local, state, national, or global levels. Small acts or big acts. What do you see for you?
What role is yours to play?
Healer, light worker, creator, artist, explorer, advocate, innovator, teacher, nurturer, nourisher, minister, connector? Something else? What words come to mind for you?
What do you need to do or shift within you to take us from here?
Is it to be vulnerable and have courage? Is it to observe how your fear and anger affect your ability to help…and then find a new way to move forward? Is it a change in the words you use inside your head, on social media, in your community, or at work? Is it being willing to sit in discomfort and co-create a new reality with those who oppose your beliefs? Is it taking on new projects or relationships? Is it being a magnet for the wounded and afraid? What does your head, heart, or gut tell you?
These are some of the many questions I’m asking myself. I believe it is part of my journey…my growth and evolution. I also believe it is more than me. It is part of our collective growth and evolution. This is why I’m sharing my thoughts with you. In case you are sitting there feeling alone. You aren’t.
I know my mom. She will be at the gate for as long as we need her there. Perhaps someone you know stands with her.
They have things covered on their end. We are responsible for covering it on ours.
One small way I’ve chosen to start is by using my voice, knowledge, and heart.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa
I may do great things, too, if that is my purpose. But until I figure it out — until you figure it out — we can start where we are. Little acts added together make big acts.
Earlier today, I shared a social media post** that reflects important lessons in coaching and leadership that feel relevant now. Consider them food for thought if you believe you are meant to help take us from here. Or, if you don’t believe this, use them where they fit in your life.
If we want new outcomes —
- We must think, feel, and communicate in new ways. Ways that are powerful for reaching the true outcomes we want.
- We must look at new perspectives and possibilities.
- We must take new actions.
- We must be aware of our biases, beliefs, emotions, and blind spots. We must understand when and how they stand in our way.
- When we feel stuck, we must learn something new about ourselves, the situation, or others. Learning requires admitting, “I don’t know.”
- We must effectively work with and through other people to co-create a reality that serves…that gets us the outcomes we say we want. We must resist disconnection from others.
The world disagrees on many things right now. But we can agree on a shared outcome.
We want the murders to end. We want the lights to stay lit.
**My social media post:
“If you always do what you’ve always done…if you always think what you’ve always thought…if you always say what you’ve always said –> you always get what you’ve always got.
I have walked this world as a psychological health researcher and expert; mental health advocate and caregiver; solutions-focused strategist; gun owner; non-gun owner; lobbying firm employee; and human potential coach. No one can make a believable claim that I’m “stupid” or “misinformed.”
Except for me — I am confident enough to admit when I don’t know. In all my expertise and experience, here’s my truth: I don’t know the answer to our mass killing problem. I have informed ideas, but I don’t really know “the Truth.” None of us do. This is why we waste our time believing and defending that we know. That time is better spent sharing and testing our best-informed ideas so we can find the Truth.
So, in all my expertise and experience, what do I know?
- We are complicit in the murders of our children, friends, and neighbors until we get over ourselves and agree to sit together in real dialogue. We owe our children this act of adulthood. To sit together in discomfort and share what we know and don’t know. To share ideas. To agree to try those ideas and measure the impact. To sit down again and again — to try again and again — until we get it right.
- The answer isn’t “this” or “that.” It is “this” and “that” and “the thing we haven’t even put on the table yet.” It isn’t a catchy, Russian-bot social media bumper sticker that kindles our tribal bond. We face a complex problem that looks more like a web than a line. The solution requires action from all sectors at all levels, from national efforts down to what we do in our communities and homes.
It is about —
* responsible weapon ownership and safety policies.
* improving broken behavioral and mental health systems.
* improving youth support and caregiving systems.
* deciding how much privacy we need and how much we are willing to give up.
* creating safe and effective systems for reporting concerning behaviors and actions.
* acknowledging why we don’t report what we see or feel, including psychological biases or blind spots.
* doing our part to defuse anger and feelings of alienation rather than feeding them.
* advocating to make our elected officials sit down and get serious about co-creating solutions.
* advocating to remove bans on (and to fund) research that fills the significant gaps in our knowledge. Research on gun safety; social/cultural normalization of and exposure to violence; economic, social, and cultural factors that are associated with mass killings…and things I don’t even know we should be researching because that is what experts are for. We should find them and ask them.
* recognizing that school and workplace violence has been a problem for a really long time. The sophistication of the attacks, access to and use of weapon, etc. may have changed, but the problem isn’t new. Blame of parenting style, entitlement, “kids these days,” etc. ignores the data. Our violence problem isn’t new. Blame is avoidance of solutions.
* things I haven’t listed because I know I need others who know more.
The length of this post is intentional — a visual example to show that if we really care, we can’t’ solve this problem with a picture, tag line, or tweet. Our leaders need to get to work.”