The Norman Transcript

February 7, 2013

What can we do to combat violence?

By Letty Watt
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The murder of innocent people hangs heavy in our air, and I, like so many, sat teary-eyed day after day wondering and asking why and how. It’s not about guns; it’s not about laws; it’s not about pointing fingers and blaming.

Are we so disengaged as citizens that we cannot come together, listen to each other and take responsibility for the “culture of our nation”? I think we must take responsibility for each action we send out and for sharing our love with and beyond our families.

Not long ago, a young woman was shot to death just six houses away in “my” neighborhood. I didn’t know her or the neighbors around her. I count that as a loss in my life. Her picture in the newspaper shows a loving smile, one I will never know. When our neighbor, Rex, suffered from cancer, I couldn’t stop it, but I could spend a few sunny afternoons chatting with him on his front porch. It wasn’t much, but it was real human contact. I count personal “hellos” and face-to-face conversations high on my list of experiencing joy.

The “should have” statements that we so often make won’t change one thing that has happened, but maybe there is something I can do, or we can do to prevent a future tragedy. One commandment rings out: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” We live in a neighborhood where I know some neighbors well enough to call them friends. I even know every dog by name, thanks to our daily doggy walks but, sadly, not every neighbor.

To knock on a door, with a TV blaring in the background, and ask, “I was just wondering how you were feeling today” might be scary, but it might be insightful. What might I learn if I stopped and chatted with the neighbor woman I’ve only seen a handful of times in the 10 years she’s driven in and out of her drive way? I can see her in the car from this very place where I write, yet I’ve never once met her.

What I can do now is to go beyond my circle of friends, knock on doors and truly meet other people. Is there anyone else out there who thinks that step by step and knock by knock, we can once again open our arms, our hearts and form communities that care? I think the people of Newtown, Conn., the people in Hurricane Sandy’s path and families in Aurora, Colo., know what love and responsibility mean. We can’t legislate humanity.

I hope that it doesn’t take another senseless tragedy for our citizens to step up and take responsibility for our children, our lives, our neighborhoods, our schools and our towns. If we can’t save every life, perhaps we can make every life we know more meaningful. That’s what love’s got to do with it.

Former Norman resident and Jefferson Elementary teacher Letty Watt lives in Hutchinson, Kan. She can be reached at letty.watt@cox.net.

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