A plane goes down.
A war escalates.
Floods or fires destroy whole communities.
Even if -like me- you aren’t an avid consumer of the news on commercial TV, most likely images, headlines and conversations about these events will cross your path somehow and some way. I hardly watched any of the news reports about the recent MH17 disaster and still know more details than one would expect.
I know in my heart of hearts what we focus our thoughts, beliefs and emotions on expands and comes back to us individually and collectively.
But what does the mean for how I respond to situations like the recent tragedies with both Malaysian Airlines flights?
- How do I respond to this with a sense of hope without seeming callous or insensitive?
- How do I show compassion for those who lost their lives and those who are left behind without becoming so consumed with it that I miss the precious passing moments with my beloved family and amazing group of friends and fellow entrepreneurs?
- How do I focus my thoughts to expand the positive energy rather than expand and attract more fear, anger and grief?
As I wrestled with these important questions I was reminded of three positive steps to take while keeping those touched by tragedies in our hearts.
Look for the helpers
Dr Fred Rogers who had a children’s show called Mr Roger’s neighborhood said:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. Just on the sidelines. ‘ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.” (From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 645-647).
If you look for the helpers (journalists reporting sensitively, prayer vigils by strangers for strangers, rescuers and many more) you will find hope. As you increase your thoughts of hope you find more and more examples of hope in the midst of tragedy and reminders of all the good that there is in the world.
Pay attention to and express gratitude for the ordinary things of life.
When my girls were growing up, I’d often say:
‘Appreciate the everyday things because life as we know it can change in an instant’.
In 2011 after the floods in Queensland and the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, I wrote this reflection:
Tonight as I sat at Moseely Square (in Glenelg, South Australia), looking across to CIBO, McDonalds and the Dublin Pub, I marvelled at how our routines and lives were still intact. I tried to imagine what it would be like if Glenelg and so many of our neighbourhoods had been decimated by flood or earthquake. And as we yearned to return to normal, we’d find ‘normal’ had been totally wiped out and we were just left with rubble, dirt and many lost friends, family and colleagues. I have a renewed sense of appreciation for the fact that I still have access to my routine, my neighbourhood, friends and ‘life as I know it’. Somehow traffic, people who undermine me, and work pressure seem less bothersome and more cause for giving thanks.
Gratitude has been proven to enhance our immune system, push us up the emotional scale to positive emotions, relieve some forms of depression and expands to attract to us more things to be grateful for. Gratitude breeds hope.
Balance grief and empathy with presence
As a mother of two daughters who often travel internationally I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for those parents who said ‘Good bye, have a great trip,’ to their young adults on their way to adventure-to find hours later their cherished children would never share another birthday, phone call or conversation with them.
As a person who prays, I pray for the families-parents who’ve lost children, children who’ve lost parents and grandparents, aunties, uncles and treasured friends who will never return.
That others come into their lives to help them navigate this awful time and situations that bring rays of light into their darkened lives. worry
Pre-occupation with worry and grief for those families is no help to them at all. It won’t bring back their loved ones either.
Worrying about the next international flights my daughters will take will only send out energy of fear that will return to me more things to be fearful about.
For me this was a good reminder to be fully present with all of the people, situations (including work) and abundance in my life.
Put the phone away when I’m talking to them.
Do what I can to love, support and encourage them.
Put my energy in to love and gratitude instead of (usually unfounded) fear.
Plan like you have 100 years left, live like you have a day left.
As Bon Jovi says ‘I want to LIVE while I’m alive’.