Tragically, events across America seem to be defining these times as the summer of hate. Divisive rhetoric has spilled over into bloody violence and shootings on all sides during the long weeks. Where are we going as a society with this painful spiral of animosity? Healing, however difficult, can stop the cycle and become a positive response to the pain we feel. When we band together as a nation, we can find common ground and overcome our grief, moving towards peace and reconciliation.
We saw such role models last summer in South Carolina. After the horrendous cold-blooded murders of nine parishioners and clergy during Bible study at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the families of the victims astonished many by their reaction of heartbreaking forgiveness. The evil perpetrator intended to start a race war with his actions but the actual effect of his massacre and the transcendent reaction by the congregation was to draw people together in solidarity. It deepened the commitment of each of us to overcome our differences and fight hatred together.
How can we respond with resiliency and kindness after such terrible deeds? Can we learn to become more focused on inclusive, pro-active behaviors to rebuild and improve the environment around us? In order to succeed, we’ll all need to be open and reflective in our support for building trust, opportunities and optimism in our society.
It won’t be easy for us to put aside the understandable emotions of anger, frustration, fear, hurt and revenge. But we can grow in resilience by drawing on our experiences in less dramatic, small simple tests of our ability to pick ourselves up and shift course after a defeat. When we can direct ourselves to constructive actions, we’re more likely to acquire a positive focus.
Only two summers ago, we saw courage and fortitude in reaction to adversity when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on the Internet. Pete Frates, a young man diagnosed with ALS, used his condition to give strength to family and friends as well as positively affect the lives of others. The campaign he began raised well over $100 million for research, searching for ways to ease the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
And, as parents, we can begin to develop perseverance and resilience in our children by what thoughts we impart to them about winning and losing during the teachable moments after a setback. As they learn to take lessons from failure and regroup to create a Plan B for the future, they’ll learn how to bend, not break, after stumbling. And eventually they can become role models for healing, which we certainly need today.