Shifting the Culture of Violence Through Kindness

My son McHenry, age 8 proudly posing for his mom’s latest blog.

This week I made my latest donation to Moms Demand Action and yesterday, I once again put on my shirt that states, “Be nice to each other, it’s really all that matters.”

This quote comes Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung. Dawn was among the 20 children and six adults gunned down inside their school in 2012.

This has unfortunately become my ritual.

Every time another shooting occurs, I put on my shirt and place this same shirt on my son. I quietly and deliberately slide it over his head, give him a kiss and an extra long hug, then send him on his way to school where he sits in a 2nd grade classroom that in fact, has no door to close or closet to hide inside of.

Later, I will write my letters to my representatives with the usual demands for gun sense regulation and throughout the next several days, I will listen to our politicians pull out their prepared statements about sadness, senselessness, and mental health.

We can choose to simplify this issue and create scapegoats for our complacency.

But I wonder, what if we were to instead examine and take action on the root, the system, or the culture we’ve created that allows us to let the shadows of children walk unnoticed through crowded halls, that has infused guns and violence into all facets of our children’s lives and that perpetuates the notion that boys will be boys?

Without this willingness to reckon, for now instead… I am that mom.

That mom who takes the stick out of my son’s hand every time he turns it into a gun.
That mom who asks someone if they have guns in their home before letting my son enter this new home.
That mom who quietly removes every little plastic Lego gun or toy bubble gun from any gift received.
That mom who covers my children’s eyes when guns are on television.
That mom who repeats nearly everyday, “There are a million things to pretend about and guns aren’t one of them.”

That mom who has no use for your rhetoric about why guns have a place in our community.

That mom who is exhausted, because, try as I might, this culture of violence is so heavily ingrained into our psyche. We are part of a marketing machine that generates over $50 billion in firearms sales, manufactures 8-10 million firearms each year, and is complicit to a gun lobby that spends millions each year fighting against legislation that favors gun sense and safety.

Ultimately, I am that mom who is only scratching unsuccessfully, at the surface of the problem.

When should we have the conversation about how we are raising our boys? When do we take real action to shift the culture of violence? When do we decide that it is time for our school systems to be given the funds they need to build better safety nets around those that feel isolated, lonely, and alienated?

So many of the young men who have taken up arms for mass school shootings share a similar story. They were the quiet, the lonely, the dejected. They took solace in video games, the internet, and fellow disenfranchised discontented groups online. They had access to guns and a long line of examples on how to carry forth their rage. They were locked in their own personal crises.

For Valentine’s Day, I had planned to roll out our latest theme on Acts of Kindness. As the afternoon news unfolded, like many of us, I became devastated and unable to push out a message of uplift in such a moment of tragedy.

Today, I look towards those wise and simple words of Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, “Be nice to each other, it’s really all that matters.”

What if we all take an action to see and support those we might otherwise ignore or turn a blind eye to? What if we actively seek out ways to be kind to those who are disenfranchised in our communities, our schools, and our neighborhoods? What actions can we take to engage more  young people in the life our community? We are fighting against an incredible machine but every connection we make brings us closer to a kinder, more peaceful community.

I invite you take a look at this month’s pick-list of volunteer opportunities that encourage more kindness, inclusion, understanding, and dialogue in our community and find what compels you.

As always feel free to reach out to our Volunteer Mobilization Team if you are having trouble finding the right fit for your volunteer interests.


Blog Post written by Volunteer Center Director of Communications Christine Loewe. Everyday she dedicates herself to promoting the endless possibilities for builidng new connections and making our moments more meaningful through volunteerism.

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