"Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go."
I'm a mother; I think the good kind. I raised two daughters, and we are still on speaking terms. I'm proud of them because they grew up to be strong and independent women. And opposite-side-of-the-world adventurous.
Photo credit: Shara Matlin
On the corner of Ben Gurion and Dizengoff, in the city of Tel Aviv, a man went into a small market on New Year's Day. He filled a plastic bag with loose nuts from a mountain on the kiosk and immediately poured them back out, onto the pile. No one noticed as he moved his shopping cart toward the fresh vegetables in the bins against the wall and parked it by the door. His backpack was probably heavy so he doffed it. But rather than choose tomatoes for a salad next, he unzipped his bag and removed a weapon. That day three people died on the corner of Ben Gurion and Dizengoff, three unfortunate, indiscriminate targets, as the man with the automatic rifle sprayed bullets into the bustling street, injuring several more and then disappeared.
Within seconds of this tragedy, my phone signaled a message. I was learning that Tel Aviv was on lock down. I heard that streets were blockaded as Israeli police combed the neighborhood. At any moment, police might knock on my daughter's front door three blocks away. As authorities searched small streets and side alleys for the shooter, my daughter's family remained sequestered from regular life that takes them down one flight to the sidewalk. Search helicopters could be heard through the front windows of their apartment and distracted her boys with their drone. My long-distance maternal instincts focused on simple miracles in those moments: that her husband was home from work and that they were all together. There is a secure shelter in the building's basement and long as they didn't walk the boys to school, run out of diapers or milk, they would be okay. But how could life proceed as normal?
The gunman was at large and a harrowing pall hung over us for a week. During this time, reporting his capture fell off the radar as other hateful things unfolded around the world. I followed the news relentlessly that week, trying my best to steady the assault on my frayed sensibilities. I was looking for a lesson. Like I gather things of little consequence because the shards capture small essences of time and memory, I wanted a reason for this "crash course in consciousness." (*) I considered the irony of this notion and of the clarity that drifts in through the blur of dozing off each night. It had to do with physics and how one thing leads to the next. And it had to do with gratitude for the overwhelming predominance of goodness that outweighs bad news however colored by helplessness and distance.
Here's what I discovered (again):
1. Find a mantra: one word that captures your attention as you sift through the rest-a word that helps you refocus your attention and intention.
3. Collect insignificant notes on goodness in the small acts of kindness that measure greatly into a mound of miracles.
4. Take a break from the drama of the sensational to notice that idealism doesn't have to be smothered in the dust of earth-shaking tragedy in David Matlin's report. Graphic content and some commercial interruptions)
Most remarkable is that the wave of optimism is exponential. For more inspiration see
Dee Mallon's "Gratitude and Drinking Enough Water"
Photo Credit: Dee Mallon
and Liz Ackert's Retropective Gratitude
Photo Credit: Liz Ackert
* Solnit, Rebecca. "The Uses of Disaster. Notes on bad weather and good government" in Harper's Magazine, October 2005.