Sitting down on a Sunday evening with a scotch over ice, recounting the weekend nights and mentally preparing myself for Monday morning – another week about to begin, another week about to end. There is something to be said for Sunday evening. It is a quiet affair that provides a moment of clarity. Gone, for a moment, is the deafening loudness of day-to-day life. Just for a brief instant does everything make some sort of cosmic sense.

This Sunday is different. I am accompanied by an old friend, in a small tavern I’ve come to know all too well. My friend is calm when he begins to list off the events of the past three days – not the events of his own life, but of the world outside the front door: the shooting death of a young musician, Christina Grimmie, on Friday evening, the gun-shot massacre of 50 club attendees in Orlando, Florida on Saturday evening, the reported attempt to attack the Gay Pride parade in Hollywood, California earlier that very Sunday, by a young man from Indiana.

My friend’s words: “I’m afraid. I’m afraid to do anything. What if that’s me one day?”

In what has been possibly the most violent and fatal succession of days in modern American history, his fears are justified, as are all of ours. We are no longer fighting a faraway battle against faceless enemies. Our enemies have a face now – they are our neighbors, people we pass on the street, young adults who look innocent enough. What has shaken us as a nation so deeply is this revelation that we are being attacked by those who we are taught to trust (or at the very least, to accept).

Over the next few days and weeks and months, condolences and tributes will amass, calls to action and political conjecture will begin to overshadow the very events they represent, and we will ask ourselves the question: how do we make this stop? Hope and prayer give us comfort, but they will not satiate another hungry killer from making their mark. Talk on gun control and policing the borders will amplify – but talk is exactly that and such measures miss the point. We will search in our human way for the solution, like an answer to a math problem, when the truth is there is no way to make these atrocities stop and no way to make it an easier experience for anybody involved.

In one memorable newscast, a reporter explained quite plainly, “We do not live in a police state. We do not have soldiers on every block. Part of our freedom is the ability to go and move anywhere without being policed, searched or interrogated.”

So, aside from initiating a military state, or implementing laws that begin to inhibit freedoms the United States prides itself on so justly, is the only solution to wait for it to happen again? To wait for someone else’s son or daughter or mother or brother, sister, father, husband, wife – to perish? To wait until it is me, or you?

I will not pretend to have answers. I wish I could lay out the plan right here before you that ensures not another life is lost senselessly to maniacs. I wish I could come up with the words that take the pain away and condemn those who perpetuate violence and fear, only to succumb to cowardice. I wish I could.

All I can do, like each of us, is reflect. To sit with a friend in a bar on a stool where I have felt safe on so many nights before and hope to for so many nights to come. To listen to the anxieties of my friend and learn nothing, simply listen. In these situations, it is easy to be the instigator screaming “Hope is lost!” Or the pessimist that can only see the morbidity and regret. What I implore you to do is take these instances, not as political statements or sentiments, but as moments of reflection.

It is never more widely understood, than when staring directly at the wreckage, our own mortality. We truly are guaranteed nothing – not one more day, not one more hour. It really can be me or you next. This is not meant to scare you, but to put matters in perspective. We cannot control what happens, the actions of mad men, which is why we will never “stop” these tragedies from happening. But we can control what we do in the aftermath. When we read the names of every life lost this weekend, we must give them meaning. In the haze of sorrow drifting overhead, we must take courage and inspiration with us as we move forward.

Inspire yourself to live more fully, to be more aware, to experience what you have left waiting for “someday,” to hug tightly your spouse or child or best friend or parent. Do not let the fear control you. If we can inspire ourselves and our neighbors and our friends in some small way, then, we stand above fear, and these people we feel so deeply for but have never met, they do not die in vain. They are now our motivation to become closer, and to actually celebrate life in their honor.

Maybe we will never come up with the perfect guide to end suffering and violence, hatred and terror. Maybe we swallow hard and accept that in some matters, we are powerless. And then maybe, we wake up in the morning and stay positive, keep our faith, move with compassion and gratitude.

As the night comes to a close, I embrace my old friend with a hug and a gentle “good night.” And I go home, blindly, but hopefully embarking on another day because, whatever happens, this much is known: after Sunday night settles comes Monday morning. And though it is gloomy and gray, I assure myself the sunlight will break through the clouds and we will continue as we always have, hearts heavy but stronger.



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