I’ve spent less time on social media because my personal life has been rich, fulfilling, and full of hopeful possibilities. But the last few times I peeked in, I learned of some really, really heavy news. Three mass shootings in the last week, including an elementary school in Texas. A report on the Southern Baptist Convention covering up over 700 documented cases of sexual abuse.

When it’s this heavy, I don’t know what to say. It takes time to process, and I’m much better with talking out my feelings in person.

But yesterday, I worked from a coffee shop and happened to sit next to a young girl. What started with small talk turned into a deeper, vulnerable conversation. She told me about surviving an active shooter incident. She told me about the openly hostile racism she experienced at her predominantly white high school. 

I realized that what I was meant to do in that moment was not to get my work done, but to hold a young girl who needed a safe space to cry.

Too often, we respond to news stories with these trite little “thoughts and prayers.” Or worse, launch into think pieces (that no one asked for) blaming heady concepts we don’t even understand, like “CRT”, “abortion,” and “gun control.” We don’t understand, because to us, those are just abstract concepts. Not actual human beings crying in our arms.

How would it transform you if you sat down, shut up, and let a young girl look you in the eyes and say, “I was terrified for my life” or “I thought I was gonna die that day”? What are you gonna tell her about “CRT” when she says, “Those kids made me feel worthless” and “All I wanted was for them to see me”?

I don’t have any “work wisdom” today. Just a plea to pause from the grind and see the humanity all around you. Maybe actually take your lunch break and text someone to see how they’re doing.

Maybe we need less abstract theories about how the world should work, and more vulnerable conversations with new friends over dinner. It’s the very least we could do, but it is doing.