Over 25 years ago, I remember standing along Sepulveda Boulevard with other Angelenos, one hand holding that of my teenage son, the other a stranger who had joined with us – and 6.5 million others - to form a chain of people stretching across the United States. Hands Across America was meant to encourage solidarity among the American community and to fight hunger and homelessness.
That sense of solidarity is again making a comeback after the horrific shootings in Aurora, Colorado. As information comes in from the media, many are choosing to put individual faces on the victims and outline the many heroic actions of people attempting to shield others from harm and helping those who were already injured.
Ironically, one young woman who was killed, Jessica Ghawi, had earlier survived another shooting at a mall in Canada and had blogged about her experience at that time, I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. Her words are even more haunting now that she is dead.
As we face acts of senseless violence like these, we instinctively join together as a community to support one another. When it feels like our safety and security is threatened by an event like this, we seek a solid footing to ground us. We feel less overwhelmed and vulnerable when we experience the touch of another.
You already know that, in caring for your own family, a hug and kiss can help reduce the pain – emotional and physical. And talking to those in your support system relieves some of your stress, anxiety and fear. So open up to your friends and family about your feelings and thoughts; they can validate your emotions and begin the healing process. And giving a helping hand to others does wonders - it provides aide to those in need and makes you feel useful too.
We may try to understand the reasons behind the attack in an attempt to gain more control over any future chaos. But while so-called pundits will offer explanations about the perpetrator, we really don't yet know what motivated him to conceive of and execute such a terrible plan. What we do know is that reaching out to comfort others in pain and to ask friends and family for support ourselves when we need it creates a resilient, caring community for all of us.
When those under stress join together to sustain each other, we all benefit. Through sharing our common concerns and life experiences we gain a sense of camaraderie, understanding and acceptance. Our mutual support helps diminish the feelings of isolation, anxiety and helplessness and brings a sense of control back into our lives.
In the future we can reflect on what this most recent terrible shooting means to our society but in the meantime, let's join hands with others, empowering us all, and declare our humanity and solidarity with the good in our community.