What’ll Ya Have: Knee Jerk Reactions or Thoughtfully-Made Responses?

What happened in Aurora, Colorado last night is atrocious, infuriating, scary as hell, and I know it brings up all sorts of things in each one of us. My son, for example, has friends who were at that very theater earlier last night to see a different movie. They left the movie, walking past the lines of customers in costumes waiting to enter. Whether we know anybody that closely involved or not, there’s the stone cold it-could-have-been-us-or-someone-we-love realization that takes shape in a host of ways. Some of us will immediately think of how we want guns outlawed, others how we want the government to keep its hands off our weapons. Some will look to the government to initiate security measures to protect moviegoers everywhere, others will dread that further intrusion into our lives. Some will cry for the shooter to be brought swiftly to justice, others will send prayers for him and his family. Some will sit down in stunned silence and try to take it all in, others will head straight to the keyboard to post their ire and promote their causes. Some of us will feel all these things.

Questions will be raised, answers will be sought. Fists will be waved, hugs will be given. There’s no doubt about that – and those questions, those conversations, those hugs might ultimately be the long-term value we glean from such an atrocious act.

There’s a difference between being an opportunist and being an activist, I’m thinking, a fine line of difference with big implications. Instead of feeding on the frenzy we are reading and hearing, could we listen to news reports with a grain of salt and remember that they are getting information from a variety of sources and that they make money by capturing our attention? Instead of using this distressing-beyond-description event as a platform to gain votes or support for our causes, could we show respect by focusing on the personal loss sustained last night? Instead of thumping our chests, could we light a candle in remembrance of those who lost their lives, in support of those who were injured, in support of the families and friends involved? Instead of waving our placards in hopes of media coverage, could we say a prayer for those who were injured and the medical staff treating them?

The causes will be there months from now, but the people could sure use our heartfelt attention right now.

Maybe you don’t live close enough to commit a tangible act of support that directly benefits those involved, but good energy has far-reaching effects. Maybe you could take a meal to someone living near you who is tired from trekking back and forth to cancer treatments. Maybe you could find a nearby blood drive and make a donation. Maybe you could honor a pet who lost someone special last night by adopting a pet at a local shelter or making a financial donation. Maybe you could brush your teeth and hair and go share a glass of sweet tea on the front porch with neighbors you always say you wish you saw more often.

This is a heinous act for which adequate adjectives have not been invented. Let’s let it fuel us, but let’s not let it divide us. Let’s let it change us, but let’s not let it hold us hostage. Let’s let it motivate us to get creative in finding ways to show we care. Let’s let it encourage us to pay more attention to those around us. Let’s let it make us determined to create a world we want to live in, a world where we and those we love can continue to wander out in search of entertainment and enjoyment without fear.


  1. Merry ME

    Weeping at how well you said what I wanted to say. Bless you.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Sugar. I just can’t stand all the opportunists when there’s so much personal loss and pain involved here. Politics in every form can (and will) wait.

  2. angelakelsey

    I’m so glad you wrote this, Jeanne. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Sugar. And thank you for helping me collect my thoughts and for proofing it for and with me. xo

  3. Sarah

    there is always such a deep struggle to put events in a context, to explain behavior, to collect reactions, all in order to find the self amidst confusion. i appreciate the way you scan that horizon but come home with clarity about being present. be present – give, bring, do, sit, share, offer… inspiring compassion and willingness rather than feeding the hunger for the next act in the drama.

    • whollyjeanne

      Sarah, how I do love to hear from you. I see your name, and my heart smiles and stands up straight in anticipation of what wisdom you’ll drop. Instead of asking why would somebody do this, I found myself looking at how we respond, individually and collectively, and this is what came up/out. Though I didn’t include it in this post, I do wonder if all the chest thumping and placard waving is the only way some folks see to do something about it, to fix it. I can understand the need to make things like this stop happening, I can understand how some folks want to take action to DO something and do something RIGHT NOW to make this stop or make sure it never happens again, but I think there’s a distinct and important difference in knee jerk reaction and thoughtful response, and, well, though it saddens me to say it, I also see what sure looks like folks jumping in front of the cameras to promote their own causes, and I”m tired of that. Do we need to get at the cause? Of course, though I wonder if that’s possible. Well, I’m simply restating what I’ve already said, so I’ll just thank you big for your wise, thoughtful comment and friendship, and for seeing the big picture of what I was trying to say. Drama. Yes, that’s it. The next act in the drama. May we have more human interest stories than action thrillers in our future.

  4. Brendarific

    Wonderful! Exactly what has been on my heart but am unable to put into words. Thank you!

    • whollyjeanne

      You have no idea how much your comment brightens my day. I was so hesitant to post this post ’cause, well, you know. But then my smarter self said “Well, shoot, it’s the truth, isn’t it?” and so I mashed the send button and waited to be banished from the ethers. And here you are. Saying “Me, too. Me, too.” Does my heart good, as my mother says.

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