If you call Nashville home, you know that tragedy struck a local Waffle House restaurant a few weeks ago when a man walked into a restaurant and opened fire in the middle of the night.
The senseless act of violence claimed four lives and would have likely taken more had another patron not confronted the shooter and wrestled the automatic rifle away from him.
This is tragic. You know what else is tragic? The fact that my day didn’t change one bit because of the news of a shooting just one city away from where I live. I read the news on social media, frowned for half a second and then continued on with my day. I uttered a few prayers under my breath for the families and friends of the victims as the days came and went. I had conversations with friends about the situation. But unfortunately, I didn’t let it stir my heart. I’m not alone, am I?
Shootings are becoming just part of our daily lives. We have become calloused to the heart-wrenching news that someone’s life has been taken. That’s an all-star tragedy in and of itself.
The easy question to ask at times like these is “why?” Why this place? Why these people? Why does he have a gun? Why did God allow this to happen?
There’s no easy answers to those questions but the harder question is “Why did this guy kill people?” More often than not, I think the answer is simple. The shooter is hurting. And hurting people hurt people.
And what a tragedy.
Our culture is not prepared to handle hurting people. More often than not, we are left to handle life’s hurt on our own. We are told to suck it up, get over it and move on. We are taught to medicate with anything and everything that will distract us from the pain. We are conditioned to avoid the hurt.
But no matter how much we try to avoid it, the hurt is still there. And eventually it comes out. Sometimes, it even comes out in the form of a shooting.
There’s a lot of things we can discuss in relation to shootings. We can talk about guns and mental illness and security and laws. But I think the only real way we are ever going to truly stop shootings is to help heal the people around us who are hurting.
When I stop and think, I have no choice but to take personal responsibility for some of the shootings that happen. I didn’t pull the trigger or give the shooter a gun, but I also didn’t do my part to create a culture that allows people to feel their feelings and tell the truth.
One of the things I have been doing in the last few weeks is remembering that every single person is living their own story. Every person is one trigger away from being the villain in a mass shooting news story. None of us are immune to the way Satan plays games with our hearts. Don’t believe me? Go read some on the shooters of recent shootings around the nation. Many of them were just like you and me at one point. And whether they realize it or not yet, isolation fueled their bad choices.
They saw no other way to get the attention they were desperate for. They just wanted someone to see them. And guess what? We have all done stupid things for attention before. Things that have hurt others. We have said things and done things that we regret. It wasn’t that long ago that I hurt people I cared about to get a little attention I was desperate for. You probably have never killed anyone but you have hurt another human being in your own time of need.
If you call yourself a Christian, look around. There is someone in your world today who is hurting. They need someone to look them in the eyes and tell them they are not a mistake. They need to know they matter. They need to experience God’s love through YOU.
A few weeks ago, tragedy struck my city. Unfortunately, tragedy struck and my “Jesus-loving” heart sat in a row in church and lamented how sad it was that people had lost their lives that morning and then just went on with my day.
Last week, I had an unexpected conversation with the unit manager for the Waffle House that was shot up the week before. Hearing her voice made it all so real for me. It was as if God used her voice to grab ahold of my heart and shake it up. Real people were sitting in that restaurant trying to eat pancakes and hash browns that night and lost their lives doing it. Employees who were undoubtedly exhausted at almost 4 a.m. never made it home.
Honestly, there’s not much we can do about the blood that has already been shed but we can make a difference for tomorrow. We can look people in the eyes and make it known that they matter. We can make a difference by being kind and allowing others to be who they really are around us.
My friend Mike asked me at church a few weeks ago how I was doing. I said, “Good.” He hugged me and said, “Now how are you really doing?” Let’s all be more like Mike. Let’s all ask the question and expect an honest answer in return. And then let’s be the kind of people who listen to the answer with everything we have.
Side note #2: Need a way to find someone to love on? Head to your local Waffle House and have a meal. Buy someone a cup of coffee. Smile. Hug. TIP. Let’s show Waffle House they are loved and valued, and not just for their pancakes.
Side note #3: Please don’t read this post as me excusing mass shootings. I am NOT defending the violence. I’m simply highlighting what I believe is a deeper cause and offering another answer.