Guest Blog: Chris O’Neill: How about we just try being NICE?


How about we just try being NICE?

In light of the tragic Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 26 individuals lost their lives, 20 of them first grade students, and in light of the subsequent vitriolic national debate, we need to consider all the ideas – anything that might save any child is worth considering calmly and with a sense of cooperation.  We can’t have a “my rights are more important than your rights” attitude. We must all give many inches.  As a nation we need to sit down with great minds, and common minds, on every “side”, with our elderly who can remember a world where this rarely happened, and our college kids who have grown up with this, yet still have hope and passion and are our future.  We need to say “What can we all do working together? What are we willing to give up? What would we pay to see better enforced? What would make us all not just feel, but be safer?”

People are angry, and that’s a natural reaction.  But nobody is taking our rights away, and nobody is turning into a military state, we have a constitution (an amendable constitution, hence our lovely little number two) to prevent that from happening.  We need to use that.  We all despise our politicians, yet we voted most of them back in last time, so it’s our own collective fault.  A democracy gets the government it elects, we picked ‘em folks, we need to use them.

We also need to breathe in, breath out, think.  Mental health care is definitely a huge part of this, personal responsibility, and a willingness to follow regulations and common sense safety is part of this.  Being willing to give up or alter a hobby if you have a situation in your home is part of this.

As a nation we have turned mean and selfish, we need to think about bullying.  Survivor is a top show.  Vote the loser kids off the island?  How 7th grade mean girl is that?  It’s one of our favorite forms of family entertainment. We need to develop a culture of kindness.  People talk about God being missing from schools.  I personally believe in the human spirit, in the power of kindness, in the strength that love for others brings.  I don’t participate in any official “god” thing, I just believe in being nice.  You don’t need to give nice a name, or a format, just teach nice.  Nobody needs to get worked up because you teach his religion and not her religion, just teach nice. Have a class pet; take field trips to food banks. Maybe we try to force nice, you can’t, but some of it might rub off.  What if we made every middle school child spend one hour a week working for the local charity, or shelter or organization of their choice, and made it mandatory all the way through high school?  Maybe some inadvertent compassion would rub off.  It couldn’t hurt, and maybe in ten years we have a generally kinder population.

My daughter made a suggestion last night, and my initial reaction was “No, you’re wrong!” But I forced myself to shut up and let her finish, and it was not a bad idea at all.  It wouldn’t fix everything, but as part of a whole, it would be helpful.  All I needed to do was chill out and consider it.  We need to take all the ideas, and instead of saying “That would never work” say, “I can see this part or that part working, let’s work from there.”

I don’t know what needs to be done, but I do know it is not just one thing.  We need to put all the ideas, no matter how flawed on a list, and then work through them, without rancor.  This was not just guns, or just mental health, or just that parenting is hard and there is no operator’s manual, or that God is pissed.  It was everything, so we need to work on everything, and we need to do it together.

This is the time for passionate intelligent people to cooperate.

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