I was stunned like many of you were to hear about the attacks in Paris by terrorists. I was especially concerned because I have friends living there.
Mark Oldham and Gretchen Beil were students in my youth group, and I was their youth pastor through their junior high and high school years. After high school, they married and eventually ended up living Paris.
They and their children love Paris. It’s their home. Even though I discovered they were safe after the attacks, I was broken-hearted that their home was attacked, because I love them.
Mark, Gretchen, me – we’re all from Oklahoma. We’re the home to the largest tornado in history (and lots of other damaging tornadoes every year), the Murrah Federal building bombing attack in 1995 (the largest act of domestic terrorism in our history), and most recently a senseless car crash through the homecoming parade crowd at Oklahoma State University.
We’re no strangers to tough times. But if you take the time to Google “tragedy in __________,” and insert the name of your state, I’m sure the list would be just as long, if not longer.
Many times we feel helpless in the face of tragedy. It doesn’t matter if that tragedy is a half a world away, or right in our own city. The calamity can seem so enormous, so overwhelming that it stops us stunned and numb in our tracks. Our friends may be hurting. Our kids are asking tough questions. Our co-workers are confused or conflicted about it all.
What can we do? Here are a few ideas:
- Take A Breath – Make sure it’s a long, slow deep one. Maybe take 3 or 4 of them.
- Donate – With crisis typically comes a need for resources, whether it be cash donations, food, whatever. Just help as you can.
- Listen Wisely – Not all information is good information. Trust credible sources. Before reacting or overreacting, make sure that the information you’re receiving has been verified.
- Pray – Yes, I said it. Some things are just way too big for us to face without help from God.
- Relax – I’m not suggesting you have a nonchalant attitude. Rather, I’m encouraging you to remember that there’s only so much you can do, and that some things are simply out of your control.
- Focus – Big problems can be faced with big solutions, but more often than not they are overcome or worked through by lots of people applying lots of smaller efforts and solutions. Focus on what you can do to help or move forward, no matter the size of your efforts.
- Talk It Out – Find others who will listen, and dialogue about constructive ways to help and respond to the challenge. Everyone brings a different perspective and offers a different set of solutions or ideas.
- Rally Support If You Are Able – Whether it’s organizing a blood drive, establishing a Go Fund Me campaign, or making a donation to a relief agency, you can be the linchpin of a movement to make a difference. The only thing stopping you is you.
- Put The Needs Of People As A Primary Concern – It may not be as glamorous or exciting to make a donation, write a card or make a phone call to someone in need, but it could drastically impact their world and their heart in a powerful way.
- Clear Your Head – It may sound strange, but it’s amazing what 30 minutes of relaxing music, reading a book or taking a walk can do for your nerves and for your attitude. You’re not much help in any situation if you’re a wreck emotionally, mentally or physically.
- Do Something – You can’t do everything. You can’t make it all right, fixed or better. But there is no excuse for remaining idle or standing still on the sidelines. In times of crises it is the character of honorable men that make history and shape the future. Be that person.
Charles DeGaulle once said: “Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.” It’s fitting that in light of what has happened in Paris that we take the words of this historic French leader to heart.