Thoughts and Prayers

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington, DC for the March for Our Lives rally, protesting gun violence and demanding action by elected officials to enact common sense gun control laws.

In the wake of increasing shootings, hate crimes and disastrous acts of God, social media has become an outlet where the world dumps its thinly veiled complacency. A headline about a recent tragedy goes up, and the hollow Facebook posts and trivial tweets dripping with “thoughts and prayers” follow shortly thereafter.

When something bad happens in the world that doesn’t directly affect our communities, it’s easy for us to put our two cents on social media to flex our bleeding hearts.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping a recent tragedy — or those affected by it — in your thoughts and prayers. It’s a reality check; a reminder that things can go horribly wrong at the hands of cruel humans, ill-developed policies or natural disasters. In moments of extreme grief and loss, relying on personal faith can provide hope and light.

But we need to stop accepting baseline acknowledgement as anything but a springboard for action. If no action succeeds your “thoughts and prayers” Facebook post, that post was more about you than it was about the tragedy.

Related: Letter to the Editor from a Parkland shooting survivor

The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina wasn’t picked up with prayers. The victims of the Boston bombing who needed lifesaving transfusions didn’t survive because an EMT pumped good vibes into their veins. Thoughtfulness didn’t extinguish California’s wildfires. These problems require action.

It’s important to have faith that the light at the end of the tunnel is there — even if it’s shrouded by the smoke of a devastating fire, the hatred of a few evil-doers or any other earth-shattering, headline-making event.

After sending that tweet to spread your good vibes into the ethernet, consider getting off your ass and helping your fellow humans in need. Donating resources may seem like the most minute dent in such a large crisis, but it’s still an attempt to make a difference, and that trounces any Facebook post by a mile.

Aside from donating cash, one of the most useful things you can do in the wake of global tragedies is educate yourself. Learn what the victims need. If it’s an act of terrorism or a mass shooting, consider reading up on policies that could help prevent these kinds of situations in the future, and make every effort to support them.

If it’s a natural disaster, learn which resources are needed most. Red Cross and FEMA provide literature to explain which items are most useful — and which ones aren’t. Be sure not to add a heavier burden to the shoulders of emergency responders and disaster volunteers by sending perishable, possibly contaminated and certainly unnecessary items to an already chaotic environment.

While global tragedies are inevitable, let’s consider the insensitivity of passively posting detached encouragement. Everyone is capable of creating change if they take it a step further than thoughts and prayers.

Sami Stewart was with The News Record from November 2017-May 2019 as a contributor, opinion editor and multimedia producer.