I heard of the terror attacks on Paris around 9 o’clock on Friday night while driving home from work. I am a professional with the Boy Scouts of America and was just on my way home from a Cub Scout pack meeting. It was a wonderful program: a story teller to entertain the scouts, speaking about veterans and giving back to the community, parents discussing how to become more involved in their children’s lives, and most of all the boys were SO excited to be there. All around I left that meeting with a sense of hope; I felt hopeful that if they stuck with it these young boys would grow up to change the world.That’s why I enjoy my job. I enjoy knowing that I have a positive effect on the lives of the American youth.
Then my roommate told me what happened and my heart was instantly crushed, broken, and torn. I cried for the innocent souls passed on too soon. I even cried for the souls of those who inflicted that pain; what happened to them, how were they so easily influenced and led to believe that this senseless violence was the answer to what is wrong with this world?
As the next 24 hours unfolded and the death toll rose, I was disappointed to see so many people on social media start to criticize their fellow citizens for giving so much attention to Paris, but not Beirut, Baghdad, Mexico, and Japan. How were we to know when this information was not so prevalent? I think what makes our immediate response to the attacks in Paris so much stronger is that it feels as though Western culture has been exposed as much more vulnerable than we felt we were; we were blindsided just like we were on 9/11 and the marathon bombings in Boston (hitting particularly too close to home for me). It hits home for us and that scares us. Our confidence is shaken. I can honestly say that had I known about the other tragedies in the world, my heart would have hurt just as equally as it does for Paris; now that I am aware of those tragedies it does. I weep for them all. I weep for every human being affected by any tragedy. I just wish that instead of criticizing one another we would band together in solidarity and love and peace and open our hearts to everyone in this world. We CANNOT respond to hate with more hate. We CANNOT attack each other, for we are stronger together. The moment we do, we lose. I choose to always love. So, my heart may be crushed, but my soul and my hope is not.
Below is what I wrote on Facebook, after much time and thought, as my response to these events. I hope it reflects what I’ve written here today and I hope it influences others to feel for the whole world equally, without criticism. It’s a prayer, poem, reflection, whatever you choose to call it, for all humanity:
I pray for Paris. I pray for the world.
I pray for every soul affected in any way by tragic acts of violence both near and far, known and unknown.
I pray that love prevails and that we may overcome hatred and fear.
I pray that we do not project our fears onto others.
I pray that we do not lose sight of how valuable a positive, loving, and caring attitude and outlook is.
I believe that change is coming and begins with us, here and now, though we may not make an immediate change. Let us look at Paris, knowing that many areas of the world have been affected ten fold by the same sort of violence, and say to ourselves “I will not stand for hatred anymore.” There is no overnight fix and there will always be some form of evil in this world, but change takes time and we CAN do it if we persist. Now is not the time to sit, steeping in anger and hatred, but to act on love and kindness, with everyone we meet.
I pray for Paris and I pray that it opens our eyes to the value of love.
And so I hope you feel the same. I hope you will stand together with me, in love and solidarity, and find a way to spread love to the world, near and far.