04 December 2015

Violence and communities

The focus in our country is very strongly shifting towards the number of murders that occur here on such a regular basis.  To be honest, it sometimes feels hard to think that I'm living my life fully while other people are suffering so often from such tragic and useless violence.  Am I really living my life fully if I'm not doing anything to stop this violence?  Am I contributing to the problem if I'm not contributing to the solution?  And couldn't the same questions be asked about my relationship to hunger and homelessness and domestic violence and all of the other problems that permeate our society?

I believe that we're all called to something.  In my case, as a teacher I try to help my students learn about conflict resolution that doesn't involve violence; about developing communities that support people, not alienate them and make the feel disenfranchised; about finding ways to help others who need it; about how to identify those people who do need help.  I don't feel that my calling is in politics right now (though of course, that may change), so I'm not helping to develop political solutions; I have no professional psychological or psychiatric credentials, so I'm not researching ways to stem violence; I am not qualified as a law enforcement officer, so I'm not joining the police or the FBI in order to combat the violence.

No matter what our calling, all of us can contribute to a society that's more peaceful and in which people feel that they belong.  It's important that our communities offer support to others, not alienate people.  We can be a part of that support.  We can teach our children tolerance, not hatred.  We can talk to that person that no one else seems to want to talk to--knowing full well that there's often a very good reason for which others don't talk to him or her.

The question that constantly comes to my mind is this:  what can we do to develop communities in which such things wouldn't happen, because the members of the community don't feel like they don't belong, and because they have outlets through which they can deal with their frustrations and aggravations?

Some of the most simple things that come immediately to mind:

We can not create and perpetuate division by constantly referring to others using derogatory terms.  Our political divisions are the worst these days--who cares if I'm a liberal or conservative?  I have my views and you have yours, and we should respect each other rather than insult each other.
We can find an organization in our community that helps the disenfranchised, and we can help that organization to thrive.  That doesn't mean that we have to spend three nights a week working at a soup kitchen--but we can put aside a weekly amount to help them to do what they do.

We can encourage and compliment others regularly.  Our criticisms come quickly and easily; our compliments come rarely.  It should be the other way around.

We can teach our children how to solve problems without resorting to violence.  And it's not enough to tell them they're wrong if they fight--we have to give them an alternative.  Telling a kid that he or she is wrong without teaching them another way of acting is completely unfair to the kid.

And that's just a start.  We can all think of ways through which we can help our communities to thrive and to be inclusive--I'm sure there are hundreds of ways to do so.  I firmly believe, though, that the most important long-term changes that we can make to affect our society have to do with building communities that are loving, caring, and inclusive--and that starts with you and me.

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