In mad world, practice basic acts of kindness

Every time there is another senseless massacre committed by a mad man armed with military-styled weapons, there is an article in me that fights to come out.

I want to scream at the people who donate to the National Rifle Association, who use lobbyists and campaign dollars to keep politicians on a diamond-encrusted leash, doing their bidding, preventing all sane restrictions against the availability of assault rifles and high-round ammo clips.

Though everyone agrees that the mentally unstable should not be allowed to buy lethal weapons, what more diagnostic criteria is needed other than the desire to own an assault rifle with a 50-round ammo drum? What else does a person have to do, serve red wine with fish?

But I have written that article, more than once. I know the familiar steps of the dance … We have a right to bear arms. … Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. For those people, the knowledge that a 3-month-old baby was shot does not make them question the availability of assault rifles, it makes them ask why a mother had taken a 3-month-old out to a movie at midnight, as if the mother deserved to have her child shot because of her irresponsibility.

I sleep with the news on. It is a bad habit, I know, but a habit I am not inclined to kick. But when I am awakened by a bulletin of this sort, I do not sleep well again for many days. On Thursday, even without much sleep, it still falls to me to join with other volunteers to serve lunch to the ever-growing numbers of Springfield’s homeless.

The shelter gets hot as the air conditioning cannot keep up as more than 100 people crowd into the small space we have on Commercial Street, and we bring in warm food. The only comfort is the practice of compassion. I cannot make those who would make military firepower available to the public see the insanity of that policy, but I can return to the tasks of putting another ladle full of compassion into the darkness.

There is an old Buddhist saying: Before enlightenment, I chop wood, I carry water. After enlightenment, I chop wood, I carry water. In a world gone mad, giving ourselves to the basic acts of kindness we are capable of doing may be the only way to hold on to sanity.

There will always be members of society who are mentally ill. That is a predictable and unchangeable fact. Often, the first time they undeniably display their insanity is after they have murdered several men, women, children and infants. Then, it is too late. I grieve the fact that assault rifles are more available to the insane than mental health care. I grieve the rush to defend the weapons that could be controlled and to blame that uncontrollable but predictable occurrence of a mind that becomes twisted. Other nations have solved this problem, in fact, almost all industrialized nations have done so.

Until we rise to that level of moral responsibility, I chop wood. I carry water.

Originally posted on News-Leader.

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