There have been numerous times in my life when even after giving my very best effort I came up short. I didn’t come in first place. I didn’t win the blue ribbon or hoist above my head the coveted golden trophy. I used all the resources at my disposal along with my outside of the box imagination and still I missed the mark.
Yet, as long as I really knew that I had given my best effort I was content. As long as I knew in my heart if I were to replay the situation before me over and over again, the outcome would remain the same, I could live with that. You see, there is no shame in giving all that you have for something you dearly believe in. There is no shame in trying your absolute hardest and still falling short of accomplishing your original goal.
Which is why with recent events in the news, I’m left struggling. Is this really our best? We just crossed the million-person mark for lives lost to COVID-19. A million is a lot of anything. We fought over vaccines, the wearing of masks, and social distancing. Some said it was all a hoax and the body tally kept increasing. Others said it will go away when the weather warms up. Now we wonder how did we allow ourselves to get to this point? Why did we let our pride, our fears, and complete ignorance, inflict such damaging losses on this, the most powerful nation the world has ever known?
Then over the last two weeks we’ve all watched in horror as two mass shootings have once again wreaked carnage in a grocery store and an elementary school. The media covers the aftermath like a blanket. Our elected officials send up the usual thoughts and prayers. Many of us are outraged to live in a country where there are more mass shootings that days in the year. As for me, I have to ask, “Is this really our best?”
I understand the deeply polarized world in which we are living. I know how tribal we have become. Our leaders have become experts at exploiting our fears and hurts to raise billions of dollars for the next election cycle, though in terms of any real action nothing ever changes. The list just gets longer: Columbine, Red Lake, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, Sandy Hook Elementary, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Santa Fe, Oxford, and now Robb Elementary joins the ever growing list of mass shootings.
Is just maintaining the status quo really our very best effort? Is doing nothing the preferred choice instead of engaging the difficult work of finding compromises? Has it now become acceptable for us just to send our children off to school and let them take their chances in life’s lottery that they might be the next shooting victims?
I believe that to date, we have not yet given these issues our very best effort in finding new and better solutions. I know that we can do better. There is certain to be another future wave of COVID that will take even more lives. Without any meaningful changes in how we handle firearms in this country we are certain to have more and deadlier mass shootings inside of our schools.
We need more of us who are willing to offer our very best to find new answers for entrenched problems plaguing our nation. What we have given so far, simply isn’t enough. To break the vicious cycle in which we find ourselves stuck, it will take all of our best.
Father Mark +