I'd like to think that I need to know about humanity can usually be gleaned from my Facebook feed.
But lately I've been giving some consideration to turning it off for a bit.
It was predictable, you see. A horrible thing happened over the weekend in Orlando. The most visible reaction on my Facebook feed was "Prayers for Orlando." Sometimes it was styled with a hashtag: #prayersfororlando.
I try really hard to accept that as the response people have to a tragedy. There are many well-meaning people who want to express their sorrow, their grief. For some, it is merely to say, "I'm thinking about you, and I acknowledge the grave thing that has happened to you."
If you are a believer, I suppose it's a rational response. I accept that those who offer it are entirely pure-hearted about it.
But when I read it, or hear it, I get this terrible heavy choking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's a physical, visceral response to these stimuli, like all my internal organs are being squeezed and shunted to the side as the hurt and the anger and the sadness wash through me. It is terrible and disgusting, like a vomit that won't come out.
See, I've heard it before. Yesterday it was "Prayers for Orlando." Before that it was "Prayers for the Netherlands." And before that it was "Prayers for Paris." And "Prayers for San Bernardino." And Prayers for Oregon." And "Prayers for Charleston." And "Prayers for Paris" again.
Lots of prayers. Poor return on the investment, mostly because—and I recognize that this is an uncomfortable truth—prayer is, for many people, what you do when you can't, or won't, or don't want to, do anything else.
So, don't pray. Don't pray for Orlando. Don't pray for anywhere else in the world that has suffered this kind of violence. Don't pray for war-torn areas, for refugees fleeing the destruction of their homes, for famine-stricken areas, for those suffering from disease. Because all of those prayers are meaningless if all you're going to do is pray. They mean nothing if you're not going to back them up with action.
Give blood. Donate money. Volunteer. Ask someone who's hurting what you can do to help. Advocate for better laws. Vote.
When you hear someone say that the people killed or injured in Orlando deserved it because of their lifestyle, speak up and say no--no one deserves this.
Write. Speak. Spend. Vote. Give.
Then grieve. Then resolve to make the situation better, and do something else that moves us toward that.
And once you've done something, if you want to pray, go ahead.
But not before.