I don’t know how universal or unique my reaction to the Virgina Tech shootings have been, but I know this much: these real-life horror stories deeply impacted me in so many ways. I was speaking with LJ (one of my best high school friends who has become a Hokie while attending vet school) while some of the events unfolded, breathing deep sighs of relief for her safety and the safety of her friends, but also worrying. Worrying that things would get worse or even if they didn’t, worrying what the aftermath of it all would be. The grief and mourning that awaited the family members and fellow staff and students at VT lay heavily on my heart.
And so injustice and tragedy have rammed their way into my quietly unfolding spring break, reminding me that while my current main concern is writing essays, for scores, hundreds, thousands, millions of people, unjustified trauma, violence and death are top priorities. The senseless massacre at VT, though widely publicized and bluntly felt, obviously represents only a fraction of the violence inflicted and blood shed around the world everyday. I know this, yet it still takes a crisis close to home (literally or metaphorically) to truly stir emotions. I am frustrated–disgusted, even–with myself that I remain so complacent about the grievances ravaging humanity. I need to do something, I need to express (and more importantly, act on) concern consistently. Although in ranting about this, I am remain among “those who express their frustrations more than their ideas,” I don’t want to (Henri Nouwen). I want to be someone who not only has and shares ideas to make this world better, I want to be someone who executes those ideas. At the very least I could execute the ideas of others, following their blueprints of justice, but instead I do my best to keep myself well-insulated. Crises that could personally affect me (like the VT massacre) penetrate my awareness, but others (insert the numerous tragedies and genocides occurring this very moment, many of which I honestly know very little about) usually barely or rarely impact me as they should. I live my life pretending to be unaware, striving for oblivion, to the bloodthirsty injustice that writhes just outside of the walls I have selfishly constructed.
I need to demolish those walls.
I built them as an attempt to ensure wholeness, as a safety measure against What Is Wrong With The World. But I cannot deny what I have known since my youth–humanity means connectedness, not singularity. I cannot pretend to be whole when I have intentionally removed myself from so many, from so much. I recognize, ironically, that I will only truly be whole once I allow myself to be made broken. Even if I remain blessed enough to continue my life of undeserved privilege, I want to intentionally help others carry their undeserved burden. I’ll probably never know misfortune as intimately as so many fellow human beings do, but I can at the very least listen to it. I can hear stories of loss and lack in aspect after aspect, piece after piece of people’s lives, and I can love the people in those stories–the tellers and the characters alike. My love will not heal any of those people, but it can contribute to the void of the denied or lost love in their lives. I just hope that someday (soon) I will be brave enough to truly love sacrificially, to love the way I know I am meant to.