“As hard and as horrible as it sounds, we need people to imagine what it is like (to lose a child to gun violence.) Without that imagination, we’ll never change.” Jeremy Richmond, the father of Avielle who was killed five years ago today in her classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School
When face to face with a person whose loss is too great to imagine, I’ve said, “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through.” I don’t want to imagine something so bitter and horrible. But maybe I need to. Jeremy Richman suggests that very thing here.
We never know what to say in times of tragedy and actually no words actually help. Sometimes it’s best to sit in silence. Five years go by and – still – our words fall short.
Nevertheless imagining what someone is going through – however imperfect and incomplete – builds empathy.
Frankly, I’m tired of people whose empathy quotient expands only when they are personally impacted. The father who approves of same sex marriage only after his own son comes out as gay. The white person who believes that Black Lives Matter only after witnessing abject racism with her own eyes.
Sometimes it takes an up-close-and-personal knock upside the head to move us to care when we’ve had no reason to care before.
Tragedies create activists: the mom who established Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Nancy Brinker who lost her sister to breast cancer, parents like Mark Barden who has become an anti-gun advocate after the death of his son at Sandy Hook. I believe this is one way God makes sense out of senseless tragedies.
But God is also the Creator of the human imagination. As difficult as it is to go there, we could all use less individualism and more corporate empathy. We could all stand to stop saying, “There but for the grace of God go I” and start standing with those who grieve to do what we can to change the world for good.
This is the basic message of all the world’s great religions – in spite of a growing trend to seek the best for us and our own first. There is nothing Biblical about putting ourselves (much less our nation) first.
God had given us imaginations so that we might connect more intimately with those in pain. Empathy generates a better, more compassionate world. Let’s try to imagine what it might be like . . .
Image of those killed on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, CT. Thousands more have died from gun violence since that horrible day. We have the power to make it stop.