A Different Kind of Blog Post: A Letter to My Children
I had planned another blog post for today about boards’ screening ability regarding sales and leases. However, I woke up to the news of yet another mass shooting and loss of life; this time in Las Vegas. I sat down this morning and wrote the following email to my twenty-something daughter and son who live in LA and NYC respectively. To the extent that it can help other concerned parents like me, I am sharing it.
“Dear Ryan and Lauren,
The four of us went to bed last night in three different cities and I venture to say that none of us had the specter of mass shootings on our minds before we closed our eyes. We all woke up this morning to the news that there has been mass carnage in Las Vegas due to a shooter who stuck an automatic weapon out of a window in a hotel we’ve previously stayed at and mowed down people who had just started listening to Jason Aldean.
There is not much I can add to the discussions that are sure to ensue regarding the Second Amendment, the NRA, mental health and more. In a country as large and “Type A” as ours is, it is not realistic to expect that anything significant will change. Months from now we will again go to bed not realizing the risks out there and whether or not one of us or our loved ones will draw the short straw by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What I can urge you to do is to live in the now. Previously you’ve heard me say this as a philosophy to reduce stress and enjoy the present. Now I see being present as having an additional bonus- a way for you to avoid danger. We have all become so accustomed to avoiding eye contact with others (when was the last time you really looked at a homeless person), to having a running script in our heads with an endless to-do list or a recitation of worries about what happened at work today or will happen tomorrow, friend issues, etc. That kind of thinking should be done when you are somewhere safe and you can zone out. When you are out and about, you need to be present. Look around. There are usually clues that something might be amiss if you choose to notice them. Don’t sidle up mindlessly to a backpack, duffel bag, cell phone, laptop, etc. that appears to have been left somewhere. If you get on a subway and there is such an item just sitting there, get off that car and tell someone immediately. The same holds true in other venues such as restaurants, malls, concert halls, etc. The worst thing that can happen is you delay your travel by a few minutes or you risk the embarrassment of having your actions being seen as an overreaction. The best thing that can happen is you saved your own life and countless others. As for embarrassment, it is a wasted emotion and not one which should prevent you from listening to and reacting to the well-honed instincts you both have.
There are people who are very good at being present, vigilant and active without being paranoid or otherwise negatively impacting their enjoyment of life. For those people, noticing their surroundings keenly each day brings countless pleasant surprises: beautiful sunsets as they drive home, a flowering tree on their morning walk, a baby giggling wildly in the mall, a co-worker who looks happy. For these same people, that sense of awareness might also help them notice the suspicious backpack, the person on the subway whose eyes are darting wildly and who is wearing clothing that is unseasonal, the movie theater or restaurant that feels “off”. If you walk into a store and there is no clerk at the front desk, leave. It could be that the clerk is in the bathroom, it could also be that something bad is going down in the back room. Walk around the block and come back when the clerk is back at his or her post. Humans evolved to avoid predators. Our bodies are vulnerable and we’re not that hard to kill. We don’t have fangs or claws or (for most of us) unusually thick hides. We have our instincts and our brains and modern life is working in many respects to blunt the survival skills we do have.
So what I am suggesting is take your noses out of your cell phones while you walk around in public. Notice the people and objects around you. When you choose a seat in a restaurant try to have a clear view of the door and the entrance/exit. In a public venue, always know where the exits are. There are other dangers besides active shooters and those can include careless people who start fires in packed, wood frame concert venues. If you see something unusual, say something. Act, don’t remain paralyzed in an emergency as you ponder your options.
I want you to enjoy every aspect of your lives. Of course, as your mom, I want you to be safe so you have decades of living ahead of you. If you take a little more time to understand the real risks out there and what you can do to safeguard yourselves and others, life will be all the sweeter.