If you’ve read any of my more recent blogs, you’ve heard some of this. Yale University offers a course on “Finding Happiness” and over 1,200 students register for the course making it the most popular course ever offered at the prestigious university.
A recent study in Indiana claims that 1 in 5, that’s 20% of all high school students, has contemplated suicide. Just this week a high school student in Lake Mary, FL asks to be excused from class to go to the restroom and instead, goes to the auditorium where she takes a handgun and kills herself. Is this really happening?
Well, it’s not just young people dealing with suicidal thoughts and mental health issues like depression, high anxiety and loneliness; yet I reference recent suicides of successful celebrity adults such as Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade. Now, couple the above mental health issues (depression, high anxiety, loneliness, etc.) with the pronounced feelings of anger and hate we see in social media and on television every day and we get a pretty painful, ugly picture of America.
It now, however, has become a worldwide issue. Today, March 15th, we live with the news of yet another senseless mass murder, this time in New Zealand. This is the world we live in.
I understand that there have always been forces of good and evil in this world. That will never change. But never have these opposing forces been so visible, so “in our face” as it is today. Go anywhere on social media and there it is – messages of outright anger and hate. Turn on the television and every talk show we see, even the ones on ESPN, have people shouting at each other, declaring that one person is right and the other person is not only wrong, but stupid for thinking the way he/she does.
Where has our sense of human decency gone? What happened to the basic virtues of respect for one another and civility? Will we ever see them return to our non-stop world of instant gratification, 24/7 technology and social media? Will we ever get back to sitting down with people who think differently than us, who look differently and maybe come from a different culture, and have normal, face-to-face, non-threatening conversations?
I remember a time in America when we not only did this, but we embraced one another. That’s right! Regardless of our origins and backgrounds, race, color, creed, religious beliefs, we didn’t care – we literally embraced one another. Do you remember?
The day was September 12, 2001. It was the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America – a day that killed almost 3,000 innocent people including over 340 New York City firefighters. As a country we were in shock. We were hurting. We cried. We were heartbroken. We were angry but we didn’t know exactly where to go with those feelings. And, more than ever as I can remember, we stood together, as one!
As Americans, we embraced one another, even total strangers. And yes, we were brave – we prayed. We prayed together, all faiths, as a united people, as people who genuinely cared about one another and our country. We realized that in this world, God’s world, ultimately, we are NOT the ones in control. That at any moment, evil forces driven by anger and hate can turn our magnificent world into a very dark, painful place. But, we chose to Be Brave and together, we prayed.
That special feeling for one another continued for more than just a few days or weeks. It lasted for months. In fact, for the 4-6 months after 9/11, I believe we, as Americans, were the best people we’ve ever been. We actually let the feelings of love in our hearts take precedence over all other feelings. And yes, as a nation we continued to pray.
Today, I am perplexed by what I see as a painful, ugly America. We have let the convenience and availability of 24/7 social media take precedence in our lives over what really matters. It’s bad enough that the technology by which we communicate has created a total false sense of urgency in everything we do, but now it has provided a chance for people, often under fictitious names and identities, to spout hateful opinions and rhetoric that, in most cases, they would never say in public to someone’s face. And if they would, well, we really need to pray for them!
So, what am I trying to say? I’m saying it’s time for each and every one of us to see a ‘bigger picture’ than just what’s in it for us individually. I’m saying that more than ever, it is time to Be Brave once again – and PRAY. Pray for our country and God’s world. Pray for understanding and kindness. Pray for tolerance and patience. Pray for ALL people. More than ever, Pray for Peace.
Oh, you say you’re finding that hard to do? To pray for some of those people you find difficult to like, people you disagree with. Well, guess what? That’s why I said, “Be Brave!” Sometimes we need to overcome our fears, the things we don’t understand – and that means Being Brave!
Think about it. When we act out of love, when we truly think of what is best for our children and grandchildren and pray for one another, for ALL people, for God’s world, isn’t that when we see the very best in ourselves? Isn’t that when we become a vision of HOPE for our children and grandchildren? That being the case, why would you not want to pray for everyone? Being Brave is about doing the right thing. And right now, it’s time. It’s time to Be Brave – PRAY.