Twenty-two thousand people decided to have fun yesterday at a country music festival in Las Vegas. For weeks or months before they looked forward to a three-day event, being with their “tribe” and listening to their music. Fun was the primary agenda item at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. On Sunday night the happy place was shattered while Jason Aldean was still on the stage at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
A lone gunman rained bullets on an unsuspecting crowd from a high perch 30+ stories up. At the writing of this blog, over 50 people have died and 400+ more are injured, and in some cases, critically injured. This has now been described as the worst mass shooting in modern day U.S. history.
With the onslaught of natural disasters, a divided government, fragile economy and rising anxiety among the younger generation, people now, more than ever are in search of the place where they can take a deep breath and break away from the madness. A sporting event, a good movie in the theater, a concert, a long hike in the park, a day at the beach are all on the list of escapes. Twenty-two thousand people thought they had found their “safe place, ” but it was not to be. Sadly we have entered a new normal. It appears we can “run” but we cannot “hide” from the dangers and trauma found in the surrounding world.
Where do we go? What do we do?
Living in a world of increased trauma is our context. This scenario begs at least two possible reactions: live in fear of what may happen next or accept our role in being responsive.
We at Institute of Congregational Trauma and Growth (ICTG) champion being responsive in two ways:
1) The Congregational Trauma Preparedness and Response Resource Guide prepared by ICTG calls us to calming, community and communication as a response to trauma. “Personal calming" means, first, admitting to yourself what is happening and, then, releasing tension. Learning to become calm during and after life’s turbulence, both individually and as a part of a group directly influences capacities for resiliency. Becoming calm amid the flooding of trauma-related emotions helps our internal systems communicate better with each other. Heart rates go down. Breathing steadies. Oxygen gets to the brain more easily. When we are calm, we can better sense when we are hungry, satiated, thirsty, quenched, exhausted, or restless. We do not feel numb or hyper-vigilant. Also, when we calm ourselves during or after trauma, we begin to sense other people and their needs.” (p.9 of the Resource Guide)
2) We can also respond by offering a pro-active calming place, a safe place. As one who has given my life to shepherding youth, children and their families in the context of the church I value our physical places of worship and community as a “safe place.” I want the physical building and presence with the community, whether at the church, in a park or at someone’s house to be “home” and a place where kids and parents can take a deep breath and find safety. This takes strategic planning and programming. It requires training of leaders and students to embrace a place where they can live “calmness” in the midst of the potential threats, realized and unrealized.
A few questions to consider:
1) Where are your “safe places?”
2) How do you bring calming into your life and the lives of others?
3) How can you build a pro-active calming place in your church, community organization or home?
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