“Now if you listen closely I’ll tell you what I know storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody, But nobody can make it out here alone.”
Gun violence hit my town this weekend. Not that it hasn’t been here all the while because gun violence happens everyday in my town. But, now, we are one of “those cities” where a man killed several innocent people just living their lives. At this time there is no known motive for his random murder spree. It was an unseasonably warm day in February and people were out and about as they should be in Michigan. I was out of town but woke to find that Kalamazoo was now one of “those cities.”
As a therapist, I listen to peoples worries and fears, and today there is a lot of worry and a lot of fear. It’s always the other city until it’s your city. Now, we are changed. We know on a gut level that these horrible things happen and they can happen where you live.
This is not a post about guns or mental health. I sincerely believe we’ve reached an impasse on those issues for now. I am suggesting another approach. I think at the heart of a lot of these issues is the lack of connection and feeling of belonging. We don’t take care of each other. We build walls, we pick sides, we distance, we assert ourselves but we don’t reach out. We don’t care. Or, maybe we just care about a few people for a few minutes at a time. Or, maybe you care a lot about a lot of people.
I am suggesting we try to care more. I am suggesting a radical increase in human connection. I want you to ask people “Hey, how are you?” and then listen. Just listen without giving your opinion or advice. Listen without trying to fix something. Listen without waiting to speak.
Ask and then Just Listen.
Reach out and connect with the people you see in the world. Ask coworkers, friends, and family, “How are you?” and genuinely listen to what they have to say. Make it a habit to say “hello” and “thank you” to all the people you see in the world. If someone asks you how you are doing return the favor and ask them.
When you ask someone “How are you?” you are telling that person that they matter and what they think and feel matters. When you take the time to really listen to someone it is one of the best gifts you can give them. We are starved for good listeners and genuine compassion. We all need to know that we matter in this world.
I know this takes time and we’re all short on time but maybe it will help one person feel less isolated and more connected. Maybe if someone is struggling with something they will be able to share their struggles and feel a little less awful.
And, if someone is acting peculiar and they share something with you that makes you uncomfortable you can let other people know that this person is acting strange. In a lot of cases we need to mind our own business but sometimes we need to take action. There is a lot of research that suggests most people believe “someone else will call the police” or “someone else will contact the supervisor.” You are that someone else. Say something.
But, we only know if something is off if we ask, pay attention, and then tell others.
In Kalamazoo, people did contact the police related to the the alleged gunman’s erratic driving and behavior. In fact, it’s good that people called 911 and shared on social media Law enforcement were able to stop the man before more people were killed or injured. Thank you to law enforcement for ending this horrible event as soon as they could.
I don’t think “Hey! How are you?” will eliminate gun violence but it might increase connection. And, when we feel connected we feel better. It’s the only logic I can map on to this crisis at this time.
“Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone. ”
– Alone, Maya Angelou