For two days I’ve wanted to write about the feelings swirling through my heart and mind, but every time I sat down to do it I would get lost – lost in the intense emotions and thoughts, and ended up staring at a blank screen.
I’m writing this from the Texas panhandle, having just driven five hours from Oklahoma. Those hours gave me some time to literally sit with my thoughts and feelings, and attempt to make some sense out of them. I felt the best way to do it was to just write about the experience.
I went to Oklahoma to attend a celebration of life for a beautiful 12 year old girl, named Jillian, the daughter of dear friends April and Alan. I received the tragic news a few days ago when my daughter Lindsey called to let me know what had happened. Lindsey and April have been best friends for several years, and I consider April one of my bonus daughters.
Of course, such news carries a significant impact, but this hit me hard. In fact, it affected me so much that it’s left me in awe. I’ve wept for this child as if she were my own. I’ve screamed “why” at my windshield for the answer that never comes, yet however much pain I feel will pale in comparison to that felt by her parents and little brother. It’s one of those times when you would give your life in exchange were it possible, and I wish it were possible.
What follows is a hollow feeling, like nothing else really matters, and that feeling permeates every thought, but I realize I need to allow these feelings to change me. I think there’s something I can learn from every experience in life, so I began to look for what this experience could be teaching me. How can these feelings help me change and become a better human being?
It’s a little early in the process because I’m still working to make sense of everything, but here are a three thoughts that have come to the surface so far:
- Life is precious, and the life of a child holds an extra-special place in my heart.
- The loss of such a young life gives me laser-like focus on what really matters in this life and that helps direct my choices.
- After it’s all been said and done, and despite how cliche’ it may sound, love really is the only thing that matters.
There’ll be more things that will surface I’m sure, but these three thoughts seem to forming some sort of foundation within me. Time will tell what is built upon that foundation, but there will be something built.
Part of the hurricane of emotions that rage within me stem from current events that now permeate our 24/7 news cycle, and when those thoughts and feelings merge with the feelings brought on by the loss of Jillian – a perfect storm is formed.
The great lie is that the world’s problems are so complex that addressing them all is nearly impossible. Let me clarify, there is immense complexity in the problems themselves, but not so much in the solutions. The solutions only become complex when all involved parties don’t really want to change or give up any desire of their own. They only want “the other guy” to change and give up whatever it is they want. This is why things seem to get progressively worse.
Consider the three thoughts I shared above.
- What would happen if just 50% of the people alive today truly believed (and behaved) as if love is the only thing that matters?
- What if those same people considered the lives of children (not just their own) as precious? How would that impact their behavior?
- What if those same people focused on whatever it took to ensure that love was the authentic motivating force behind their decisions and actions?
You don’t have to just think globally. What if these things were true in your hometown? Your neighborhood? Within just you and me?
Can you imagine how things would change, and the ripple effects of that change? Maybe fewer people would be attempting to shove their religious and political beliefs down the throats of everyone else. Maybe they would realize that the children are watching. This is how hate and intolerance for others is passed from one generation to the next. It is taught to the children by your words and actions, and it doesn’t matter if you have children of your own or not.
What if an entire generation of children were taught to love and be compassionate toward their neighbors, whether it be the house next door or the country across the ocean? What if we taught them empathy and kindness rather than a fanatical allegiance to some established system of belief – religion, political, nation, or otherwise?
I’ve often wondered if people get caught up in some cause because they lack meaning in their lives. So they go find it outside of themselves, latching on to this dogma or that movement, whose only results seem to always be turmoil and strife. If you’re willing to die for your flag, while hating and harming your neighbor, maybe you should seriously reevaluate what you believe and why you believe it. Or if you’re willing to hurt or kill others for your god, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate what god you’re really serving.
Humans are capable of incredible acts of hate and destruction, but we’re also capable of acts of incredible love and kindness. These thoughts and more are rushing through my mind today. When I become confused or perplexed, wondering what to do or how to do it, I look into Jillian’s eyes and she shows me the way.
Playful curiosity, eagerness to learn, accepting of others, and love.
In this moment, I can’t think of anything more meaningful.
Thank you Jillian.