When tragic, almost unbelievable events like the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the shooting of 14-year old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan and the shooting in Aurora, Colorado occur, a collective outpouring of grief and outrage unfolds.
Early Friday morning, after saying a final goodbye to two young African girls that my family had hosted for two nights, I called up a friend weeping at the probability that I may never see these precious girls again. In two short days, I had fallen in love with the girls, who were touring with the Assante choir. As I cried into the phone because I couldn't imagine not ever seeing Divine and Arlene again, Adam Lanza was at the Newtown elementary school.
As a mother, my heart broke open for the parents and families whose loved ones died in the shooting in Newtown. I cannot imagine the inconsolable grief the parents of the young children must be feeling as well as the families of the teachers, principal, school psychologist, the gunman and his mother. As a spiritual therapist, parenting educator and the founder of the Million Mamas Movement, an organization dedicated to the thriving of women and children throughout the world, I have been speaking to concerned parents and lead several prayer circles since Friday's shooting.
There are so many victims in this tragic event. Adam Lanza killed his mother with a gun she had in her home. What prompts a child to kill a parent? The whole community grieves and, as bystanders, we grieve with them. All parents entrust their school-age children to the school they attend believing that they will be safe while away from home. I received many calls from parents experiencing mounting anxiety as this past Monday morning rolled around. To provide support, I spoke a centering prayer.
While it is the human condition to point the finger at Adam Lanza for his violent spree and say it is because of lax gun controls, my mind has been entertaining other thoughts. The goals of the Million Mamas Movement include the teaching of peace principles and providing compassionate parenting programs to parents and educators. I feel moved to go to the root of what would cause a young man to shoot his mother and so many others. It occurs to me that we would find greater solace and solutions by integrating emotional/social intelligence into education and providing greater mental health options rather than displacing our grief and horror by focusing on gun control. This and other unfathomable acts of violence are a symptom of something deeper needing our care and attention.
In this high tech, fast moving global society, it can be easy to lose sight of how important it is to connect the old fashioned way.
Here are 7 tools I believe will help us heal as a society:
1. Cultivate a practice of having quiet time with your family, whether it is meditation, being in nature, talking about uplifting and inspiring things or just sitting together listening to music.
2. Turn OFF the news that has this and other horrible events on a loop.
3. Be conscious and selective about the media you watch and expose your children to, especially related to the content of video games, such as the popular Call of Duty.
4. Strive to eliminate violence of all kinds within our own hearts and minds -- emotional, physical, spiritual and mental.
5. Build a loving and emotionally supportive society for all children and all parents and support all families in thriving by making compassionate parenting classes available to every parent in all schools and neighborhoods. (The Million Mamas Movement is committed to providing Compassionate Parenting Toolkits.)
6. Train teachers in brain science, emotional intelligence and in the practice of empathy and compassionate communication as part of the curriculum in conjunction with academics and focus on nurturing children's social and emotional intelligence as the standard rather than focusing on standardized testing.
7. Make peace profitable by installing the Department of Peace in the U.S. Cabinet and making it of equal importance to the Department of Defense. Let's stand for a world where violence and retaliation is the not the answer in our homes or communities.
The landscape of our world would change dramatically if we implemented even one of the suggestions on this list. When our children are honored for who they truly are and brought up to express their inner gifts, skills and talents authentically, they thrive and our society flourishes. What if we supported mamas and families with maternal well-being and subsequent parenting classes? The questions to ask ourselves are: Would we need gun control? Would there be shooting sprees and random acts of violence? In cases like Newtown, we will truly never know the why. However, these are the deeper inquiries we must all take if we are to have a culture of peace.
Let us join in consciousness and know that loving arms hold the children, teachers, school psychologist, principal, gunman and his mother and that loving hands and hearts surround the grieving families, the community, and mamas, papas, and grandparents everywhere.
Let's mobilize the mamas and grandmas and visionary men and transform the world.