It has been a difficult week here in Virginia, and I know the rest of the country and the world has also been stunned and devastated by the horrific event that occurred at Virginia Tech one week ago today. I feel a profound sadness for those killed, for the grieving families, and for the terror the campus has experienced. At times like this, the pain of personal loss is so much easier to recall, and those hurts seem to rise back to the surface, those tender places cry out once again for remembrance. Such sadness is hard to describe. Anything I've written in the past week seems to lack the depth of emotion I hold in my heart.
One thing that has struck me over the past week is the undeniable sense of community that emerged surrounding this incident. I have been moved to tears several times by the outpouring of support. It has been overwhelming to see people everywhere - everywhere - wearing maroon and orange clothes and ribbons. The vast majority of folks I call friends on myspace (yes, I have one of those) had an avatar loaded with a black ribbon of remembrance and the VT logo. There are maroon and orange ribbons on clothes and VT signs and flags displayed on many neighborhood houses. I've never been a big Tech fan myself, but believe me, my tears flowed freely while listening to the convocation speech given by Nikki Giovanni and the swell of voices that rose in response.
I am always moved by the response to tragedy. The kinship we feel with others is unmistakable. It is remarkably easy to reconnect with each other as a part of the human community. Differences seem to instantly fade away. We reach out. We offer to help each other in any way we can. Strangers strike up conversations, often sharing raw emotions, hugs, and tears. We realize that we're all in this together.
I certainly don't conjure up another crisis. I don't want anyone to suffer. I don't want the pain to last, or to have ever occurred in the first place. But I wish we could find a way to hold on to that sense of connection and community after the initial crisis fades. At times, I feel that we are becoming more isolated, more out of touch, more concerned with our own interests and less with our neighbors. I feel very aware of the idea that there isn't enough to go around - enough happiness, enough money, enough success, enough love - enough of any of the things we covet.
I believe that this notion of "not enough" is false.
I write these words, but I am guilty of it too. Many days, I feel consumed with the business of life and all of the things that require my attention. I don't call friends or send notes as often as I should. I don't answer the phone or the door because I'm in the middle of something. When I'm feeling tired or shy, I tuck my nose in a book to avoid having a conversation with the person sitting next to me.
I don't want to be that person anymore.
What would happen if we all joined our neighborhood association? If we started a community garden? If we organized a monthly potluck to get to know those who dwell on the streets surrounding us? If we said hello or smiled at encounter? If we knew the names of our postal carriers and garbage men? If we all tried to pay it forward? If we all committed one random act of kindness each day?
Could we change the world? Could we?