Wednesday, January 23, 2013


When a tragedy strikes, I'm highly susceptible to becoming engulfed in its details.

I'm not saying this makes sense, or that it makes me great, or that it's part of my charm, or that it makes me kind.

(None of that is true because I'm so very human, and actually, becoming a big mess when people you don't know are hurt is really not that desirable of a trait.)

Basically, I'm just a bundle of anxiety on a normal day. So on a tragic day, I get incredibly worked up not over the grand scheme of things and how the world will play out in the end, but over how people are dealing with all they're suddenly faced with here on earth.

Who fed the babies whose mamas and daddies were in the World Trade Center towers (tummies in 2001, hearts and souls present-day)? Where are the Haitians sleeping years after tent cities became their norm? How is the landscape of Indonesia looking since that horrific tsunami? Are victims of the tragic tornadoes that struck Missouri and Alabama and Mississippi and so many other places able to pay their bills now? Who's taking care of the caregivers?

These are my worries -- or as my Grandma Johnson used to say, "great concerns" -- after tragedy strikes.

So when precious innocence was gruesomely ripped from Sandy Hook Elementary at the hands of a gunman, I wept with the rest of the world. Hard.

And at the same time, I fervently hoped the appropriate grief counseling resources were being dispatched to Newtown so those sweet survivors could, in a healthy way, learn how to process their t-ball teammate or first big school teacher or lunch buddy being gone forever.

Another part of my process post-tragedy is asking myself how I show my world love, and in this case how I watch for warning signs and loneliness, and how I'm prepared to protect others if a need arises.

Just to clarify: I in no way thinks this makes me unique. At all. In fact, Ann Curry proved it doesn't.

A longtime fan of random acts of kindness, I was thrilled when the journalist suggested the world grieve for Newtown's losses in a proactive, healthy manner. But her recommendation to commit an act of kindness in honor of each of the 26 victims whose lives were lost that day? Well, that idea was just gold.

For a while, #26acts and #26actsofkindness regularly trended on twitter. I loved being able to look up what others were doing in honor of the unsuspecting victims and their families.

I did my 26 acts, give a few (because who can stop after a while?), initially very arrogantly not expecting to feel differently than I usually do when showing kindness.

Did I ever have that all wrong.

Something about this was different for me -- tougher, even -- than a random act of kindness, or just being polite. I'm not wealthy, and not all of my acts involved money, but because of what we know about the situation surrounding this and other school shootings, I did intentionally try to show kindness to the seemingly isolated... lonely... alone... distanced. And it was truly random kindness, not something anyone could ever thank me for. (Maybe all this was in Ann Curry's parameters, which I missed. So I made up my own rules. Anyway.)

What I took away after this was not a smug sense of how awesomely fabulous rebekah is, or even a hope that the recipient might "pay it forward," but rather how strange it felt to step into someone's life, observe a bit of unhappiness, throw some brightness their way, and never be thanked for it.

For the record, it was scarier than rock wall climbing. And I'm NOT athletic.

I never feared for my life or safety, but I was a little afraid for my...inner security blanket? The one that keeps me warm and fuzzy when I need a comforting touch to remind me that I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, etc.? Maybe that was it.

So. Extremely uncomfortable assignment for this Pollyanna, but great insight into what we Christians probably should've been thinking when we saw those WWJD bracelets in their heyday. And great insight into how yes, I can strive to change my world whose players' reactions I see, but also those who I'll never see. And who aren't at all gracious to me. And who don't have time for me. And who are probably the loneliest, and unhappiest, and least grateful among us.

So, kudos to Ann Curry for turning what is typically an anxiety-ridden situation into a sociology report for me, and a glimpse into the little rebekah inside my head, and the recesses of my heart.

May the #26acts live well beyond their numbers, well beyond this year and decade, well past our lifetimes.

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