I'm downtown and waiting for my friend to get off work, so I stopped into a bar in the Pedway to get a few things done. I'd been running around all morning and wasn't really aware of what had happened today. It wasn't until I sat down at the bar that I realized the music was off and the sound from the television was on.
27 people. 18 children. 18 elementary school children. It's unspeakable, except now, it isn't. It's reality and the natural reaction is anger and despair and fear and disgust and incredible, depth-plumbing sorrow. And yet, the first thing I heard over the speakers was a gentleman saying that the way we can respond to this outrageous tragedy is to do good whenever and wherever we can, and by doing that each individual can collectively make the world a better place.
That might seem like a platitude and like a Barbie-sized band-aid on a King Kong-sized problem. Thing is, lots of those tiny band-aids can help heal these giant wounds.
Not half an hour before I had given lunch to a homeless person. Best Buy and Frankie's Scaloppine were giving away gift cards and a free lunch. I'd already eaten, so I picked up a lunch anyway so that I could give it to the first homeless person I saw. He was tall and wore a machinist's coat and seemed embarrassed and humbled to be asking total strangers to help him out. I crossed the stream of holiday shoppers and handed him the box, and when he thanked me profusely, I smiled and said you're welcome and ran off before he could see the tears in my eyes.
The tears were for him, but also for me. I felt a distinct sense of pleasure at giving that man a meal, and I realized that I need to be doing more. Every time I go to the store I could pick up an extra can of beans or tomatoes or something, and then drop it at a food pantry. Instead of storing those clothes I haven't been able to fit into for a decade with the hopes that some day I will, I should take them to a shelter. I can do something. I can do more.
I thought of my friends' daughters. This four year old and her friend raised $496 through family and friends. They used that money to buy carts and carts of food and then gave it to a food pantry. This was not their parents' idea. These two sweethearts wanted to help others. They made the world a better place.
If four year olds can do it...
The shooting in Connecticut is horrifying, and it seems like senseless killing is an epidemic with no sense of abatement. In a time when we all feel helpless, maybe helping someone else is the answer. Pay the toll for the person behind you. I know people who pay off the balance of others' layaways. Handle registration at your favorite charity's next fundraiser. Do something.
Do good, whenever and wherever you can. Make the world a better place.
If you'd like to get involved in the Chicagoland area, check out Chicago Nonprofit. They've got an extensive list of charities and events for all categories.