The Seven Stones Blog

After a shooting, responding with compassion

By Jen Cohen

We were asked if Seven Stones was going to issue a response to the shooting incident that happened last Friday morning in Colorado. We were all speechless, not actually sure what to say. Shea declared, “unless we can say something paradigm shifting, let’s not do it.” Here I sit, wondering what could we say that would be worth saying?

This week I also read an article written by a colleague, Bob Dunham, who asked, “what happens when we see ourselves as citizens and not consumers?” What would my response be if I saw myself as a citizen of this country, someone accountable for our collective well-being.

Here’s a story told by Jack Kornfield in his new book: Bringing Home the Dharma that moved me and feels important to share at this time. It’s a story told by a man who ran a rehab program for boys in DC.

There was one boy who shot an innocent teen to prove himself worthy of being in a gang. At the trial the victim’s mother sat silently. After the verdict was read, she stood up and said to the boy: ‘I am going to kill you.’

The youth was then taken away. After about six months she went to visit him. Prior to the shooting he lived on the streets, and she was his first visitor. They talked. She gave him money for cigarettes and left. Then she came more regularly bringing food and small gifts. Near the end of his sentence she asked what he would do for work. He did not know so she set him up with a job. Then she asked where he would live. He had nowhere to go so she offered a room in her home.

For eight months he lived there and worked at the job she has gotten for him. Then one evening she called him into the living room. ‘Do you recall,’ she asked, ‘when I told you I was going to kill you?’

‘Yes ma’am, I do,’ he replied

‘Well I did,’ she went on. ‘I did not want the boy who could kill someone for no reason to remain alive on this earth. That is why I began to visit you and bring you things. That is why I got you the job and let you live in my house. And that old boy, he is gone. So now I want to ask you, since my son is gone and that killer is gone, if you’ll stay here. I’ve got room and I’d like to adopt you if you’ll let me.’ (Page 57)

She became his mother, the mother he never had.

A few questions to consider:

  1. What would I do if I knew what I did could and would make a difference?
  2. How would I respond if I saw myself as a citizen?
  3. How can I take good care of myself and others when we experience a collective trauma?
  4. Where am I numb or asleep or too overwhelmed with what is right in front of me to feel compassion or respond?
  5. What would it take not to vilify the person who committed this crime?
  6. What would a response from compassion look like? What does forgiveness have to do with this tragedy?
  7. What would a response look like that was actually not about being in reaction to what happened but was rather a creative response to the violence we all tolerate?
  8. If that were my son, what would I want from people?

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