Note: This post was first published on July 11, 2016, after the shooting of police officers in Dallas, TX.
As I watched the Dallas police chief speak at a news conference on Friday morning, I heard him say, “We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days.”
That line has echoed in my head for the last seventy-two hours, as I continue to process what has been a heartbreaking week in a difficult summer in this country, and indeed in the world.
I think it’s the specific wording Chief David Brown employed; he didn’t use the passive phrasing, “Let’s not let today be most days.” He said,
LET’S NOT MAKE TODAY MOST DAYS.
Because we MAKE our todays. Right now, we are making our tomorrow.
In mindfulness, we teach that how we meet the current moment will inform what happens in the next moment. Our days are comprised of approximately 20,000 breaths and 100,000 heartbeats, and in all of them we have a choice: How am I going to BE in this moment — in this family, in this community, in this nation, and in this world?
If we choose to make today “most days,” then we’re in for a lot more suffering and heartbreak.
If we choose to make today “most days,” that means 1 in every 6 Americans is living in poverty.
It also means that, today alone, 48 children and teens in the United States will be shot, and seven of them will die from their injuries. (Two will be suicides).
If today is “most days,” it means that, somewhere in the United States, a mass shooting will occur. (There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015).
It means that, somewhere in the United States, a cop either died yesterday, or will die today or tomorrow, in the line of duty. (130 police officers died while on duty in 2015).
It means that one out of every four children you meet today has been bullied at school. And of those who have been bullied, more than a third of them reported bias-based bullying.
It means that almost 900 million people in the world have less than $1.90 to live on today.
It means that today, 493 people will be killed in an active conflict somewhere in the world. (In 2014, there were 180,000 fatalities in 42 global conflicts).
LET’S NOT MAKE TODAY MOST DAYS.
Where do we start?
We start right here. In this moment, with this breath.
“Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
There may not be much in the news right now that’s making you smile, but you have, right now, the gift of a new day, of another twenty-four hours.
What will you do with them? How will you be in the world today?
I fully admit to being THAT PERSON who wholeheartedly believes it is our compassion that will make all the difference.
Because compassion is not mere sympathy; it’s not passive “thoughts and prayers.” Compassion is a state in which we feel the suffering of another and we are compelled to do something to alleviate that suffering.
Compassion is about ACTION.
It’s about, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, living fully in each moment — truly seeing and understanding what is happening around us, instead of interpreting the present moment through the lens of our (usually paranoid and delusional) stories about the world. When we can see the moment for what it is, we can take informed and inspired ACTION to make the situation better, instead of merely re-acting in habitual and unskillful patterns.
It’s not just living in the moment, it’s about looking at the moment. It’s about seeing the actual human being behind the media stories and tweets and rumors. It’s about seeing a person and not a parody, seeing an individual and not an invention.
It’s when our assumptions about black men, or white cops, or Muslim immigrants interfere with our human interactions with this person, this cop, or this immigrant in this moment that tragedy can occur.
Which means we must not only see the other person, but we must see ourselves. What assumptions and prejudices do we carry? What view of the world do we operate from? How does that inform how we choose to act in that world?
The problems facing our world right now are BIG problems — institutional racism, gun violence, homegrown terrorism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia, to name just a few.
And when we stare up at BIG problems, we can feel pretty small. We might wonder if there’s anything that WE can do that would actually, you know, make a difference. We might feel paralyzed, which means we don’t act at all, which means . . .
WE MAKE TODAY “MOST DAYS.”
Your actions don’t have to be BIG to make a difference. They just need to happen.
Volunteer in your community. Read a book that challenges your view of the world and asks you to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Talk to your children — about race or religion or guns or safety or sexuality or consent or feelings — just talk. Educate yourself about upcoming local elections — and VOTE. Contact your elected officials. Attend a rally or an informational meeting. Join an action group in your community.
It’s exhausting to try to solve all the world’s problems — just begin by addressing the problems in your part of the world.
Pay attention. Open your heart. And take inspired action.
Just imagine what “most days” would be like if we all did that.