I was only two years old when President Kennedy was assassinated, but until my generation experienced several immense losses, I didn’t have the understanding of how greatly Kennedy’s assassination affected people. I remember my grandparents talking about The Great Depression, however I lacked the empathy one develops after they’ve lived through hard times. My mom’s brother was drafted to the Vietnam War, but as with previous events, I was young enough where I couldn’t feel my mother’s anguish on waiting for her brother to return home.
As I grew older, there were events that began to have an impact on me, such as the first moon-walk. I was still quite young, but I recall my relatives all gathered around the television watching this great moment in history. While that was a positive event, it seems it’s the tragedies that truly change who we are and how we think.
People in my age-group have lived through the Challenger Explosion, war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Oklahoma bombing, most recently the Boston Marathon bombing, and while these all had a great impact on me and there was great loss of life, perhaps the two most significant events - for me anyway – were 9/11 and the Sandy Hook school massacre where young, innocent people paid the ultimate price. 9/11 shocked us on our vulnerability to terrorists around the world, while some of these other horrific events proved we have our own home-grown terrorists who are just as deadly.
Can we prevent these events? Some we can, some we can’t, but certainly we can at least begin to ask ourselves why these tragedies seem to be happening with increasing frequency, especially when we have so many disenfranchised youth who feel their only choice is to tote a gun into a school and blow away innocent lives.
This brings my topic back full-circle on the holiday season and what got me thinking about all of this in the first place. I’m a firm believer that all of us are responsible for paying attention to the people around us, and when we see a family that’s hurting and going through tough times, reach out. When you hear of a child being bullied, step in. When you know of a young person who appears emotionally lost, mentor him or her. Be a loving presence in their life. If these folks felt wanted, hopeful, and connected to others, and most of all heard and understood, it’s my belief they wouldn’t resort to extreme measures.
Be a blessing to those around you. Maybe we can’t change the world, but we can change lives… one person at a time.