I awoke the morning after the attacks on Paris with a heaviness on my body I’ve grown too familiar with. The morning after the loss of a friend, family member, or after a tragic world event, there is this micro-millisecond of blissful oblivion. I start to wake as if it were any other day, another blank slate of opportunity for my kids and me to write our memories on. Then, the force of grief and concern stonewall my oblivion. The morning after the Paris attacks, I went downstairs and stumbled through making coffee. As I sat down to social media, the replay of the assaults flashed on the TV in front of me. Aimlessly searching for a distraction or some assurance online, I found nothing. The fun posts felt vapid and tasteless. The recounts of the horrors and conjecture about future simply underscored my feelings of uneasiness. Giving up on the possibility my phone held something satisfying, I watched the news. My heart continued to break for those recounting the terror they experienced. Each tear accentuated the enormity of this situation. The French President, Francois Hollande’s address cut through my rumination of my sadness.
Ce que nous défendons, c’est notre patrie, mais c’est bien plus que cela, ce sont les valeurs d’humanité… Dans cette période si douloureuse, si grave, si décisive pour notre pays, j’en appelle à l’unité, au rassemblement, au sang-froid… La France est forte et même si elle peut être blessée, elle se lève toujours et rien ne pourra l’atteindre même si le chagrin nous assaille. La France, elle est solide, elle est active. La France, elle est vaillante et elle triomphera de la barbarie.
While we are defending our homeland, it is so much more than that. We are defending the values of humanity… In such a painful, grave, decisive time for our country, I call on you for unity, to rally against cold-bloodedness… France is strong. And, even though, we may be hurt, we will always stand-up again. Nothing will extinguish this, even when upset besieges us. France is solid; it is active. France is valiant, and we will triumph over barbarity.
The answer was right there. While, I can’t pretend to be proficient in global or even national politics for that matter. And, I can’t pretend that I know how to infiltrate an ideology of terror. While I don’t know how to put in motion a plan of peace, or how to pay adequate respect to those who passed, or how to repair the grief of those who have lost loved ones, we do have choice. In the face of tragedy, we have the ability choose both our responses and course of action. We can choose to lament and perpetuate fear, or we can choose an approach of resilience. In times of turmoil, we can choose to let the uncertainty and gravity consume us, or we can choose to hope. While I don’t think genuine emotion can be decided away and I don’t think we can choose to avoid grief or raw emotion, I do think we can choose our attitudes, approach, and our demonstrations of tenacity. In times of immense turmoil, we can choose a spirit of resiliency. We can pay it forward with acts of kindness. We can take inventory of what we are grateful for regularly. We can choose to approach each day as a gift that isn’t guaranteed for tomorrow. We can choose to seize the day with our young families and make the most of each moment before it passes. We can choose unity amongst those closest to us and love. We can choose acceptance for those who are estranged. We can show compassion, hospitality, and love.
While we can feel powerless seeing images of death and destruction broadcast across all forms of media, we have the opportunity to choose life.