Tragedy is everywhere these days.
Recently, a family lost their two-year-old son to an alligator – while on vacation. Dozens of families lost loved ones when a deranged dude went out of his way to take lives in Orlando. Worldwide, there are hundreds and thousands of lives ruined every day by various disasters – manmade, natural, or other.
To those whose lives have been affected or lost loved ones, I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish I could hug away your pain – or at least hug you and cry with you for a moment.
But I mean more than just the tragedies where innocent lives are lost. Beyond the initial tragedy is something that’s even worse: it’s the tragedy of passing judgment instead of showing support.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s human nature to ask questions. Part of it is natural curiosity, part of it is a desire to not make similar mistakes (or suffer similar consequences), and part of it is just a thirst for knowing about what’s going on around us.
But sometimes, we should stop and think before we ask:
- Why was the two-year-old playing in a lagoon after 9 pm? (with the time difference for a family two time zones away, never mind that the two-year-old’s body said it was only 7 pm – and, let’s face it: kids PLAY IN WATER)
- Why did the gunman choose that club?
- Why did the mom at the zoo lose track of her kid for a fraction of a second? (um, because kids are fast and sneaky?)
- Why do bad things happen to good people?
The why isn’t what’s important, people. The questions, while it’s normal for us to wonder, aren’t what we need to be doing or asking. Passing judgment is another thing we shouldn’t be doing.
What should we be doing?
Well, take a moment and think – think about the people involved and affected. These people, no matter the tragedy, just went through something horrible. Something awful. Something that’s had a profound impact on their life – and maybe it took the life of someone they loved. These people feel alone.
Passing judgment on them is a great way to make them feel even more isolated and alone. And that’s a horrible place to be. It’s even worse when you’re already suffering.
So instead, put your arms around them. Suspend your questions. Let them know they aren’t alone. Even if all you can muster is the very safe, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” and a hug. If you can, love them. Serve them. Let them know they aren’t alone. There’s time for rhetoric and soap boxes later… when we’ve all had a chance to recover and mourn and move on together.
Judging and talking won’t bring back their loved ones or fix the now-past event. It will, however, make people feel more isolated and alone.
Listening, serving, and loving, though… those will lessen the sting of tragedy and loss. They bring healing, understanding, and compassion. They bring us together and make us all stronger. In that way, we can and will change the world, one person and one experience at a time.