(Photos and collage compliments of Sandra “Sam” Morris, who embodied the spirit of this post as well as anyone I know, and who created this very photo collage as a loving welcome gift to me for my first office in Baton Rouge.)
Of all the forms of hatred, violence, and madness that plague our nation and our planet today, school shootings have become a particularly horrifying headline that scream all is not well with us. Too many of these headlines. Too many of these victims. Too many of these perpetrators. And while all the horror of it all may leave us feeling helpless to do anything, I believe this is a great lie. Sure, neither you nor I are powerful or influential enough to change the whole world. But we can change the little pocket of the world in which we live. We really can.
I believe we begin to really truly change our pockets of the world when we decide we are here to serve others, rather than ourselves. And our impact grows broader when we raise our kids to understand that they are also here to serve others, rather than themselves. And this movement of healing and betterment of our soul-sick world doesn’t need to start with some kind of big organization or financial push or impressive “service project.” This healing movement of peace begins with a mindset. And here are some of the primary pillars of that mindset:
1. I am not special. Yes, we are all unique in certain beautiful ways, according to God’s amazing tapestry. But I’ve got to remember that I am not better than you. And I’m not more impressive than you. I’m not more valuable than you. Or more significant than you. Or more worthy than you. We are all in this together, and we all have strengths and limitations to use as we will.
2. I just won’t get my way much of the time. It’s the way of the world, and I need to accept it. But it isn’t some cosmic plan to pick on me, because you are dealing with the same reality. And the sooner you and I willingly accept and embrace this reality that we just won’t get our way much of the time, the sooner we can move on to doing something that really matters for the rest of the world.
3. Thoughtfulness and compassion are powerful beyond measure. Seriously, just make a commitment to start calling restaurant servers, grocery checkout attendants, coffee shop baristas, and the like by their name when you speak with them. That may not keep all the bullets from flying, but it will shine some light into some dark places around you. I guarantee it! And you’re gonna be amazed at how the world really starts to improve around you when you put thoughtfulness and compassion into practice in even bigger and deeper ways. If hatred and fear are our great enemies, thoughtfulness and compassion are our great countermeasures.
4. People are priceless treasures. I will never know the profound ways my life could be enriched by the various people around me if I never make the effort to get to know them. People are people, not objects. If I see others primarily as obstacles, competitors, or tools, I am shortchanging myself and I am contributing to the cesspool of ignorance, fear, and violence that swirls around us all already. And before you try to use my first point to poke holes in this point, consider that I believe all of us are priceless treasures.
5. My most meaningful legacy will be measured by how much I have improved the world around me, not by how much I have harvested from the world around me. Seriously, who left a greater legacy in It’s A Wonderful Life…Mr. Potter or George Bailey? Making a better life for myself and my children and their children is not wrong. In fact, I think it’s a good thing. But what am I doing to make life better for others one day at a time? And how am I leading my kids to make life better for others one day at a time?
And if you would like a Biblical perspective on these issues, take a look at one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. So, let’s stop the shootings! We CAN do this! You and me in all our non-special glory. But we must decide to put ourselves in proper perspective, so we can get the world around us in proper perspective. Then, we can change the world!