Friday, December 21, 2012

Turning Anger into Action

By Phoebe Farag Mikhail
December 16, 2012

I hung up my phone in a huff, justifiably angry.

The bank that holds my mortgage charged extra fees to my account incorrectly, and I had already spoken to them to fix that – a month ago.  Today, I checked my credit score, and discovered that the late payment and associated fees that were supposed to be waived had now appeared on my credit report – a huge blow to my credit score, and an added setback to my family’s financial plans. I called the bank and left two angry voice mails, since it was Sunday.

I did this holding my 8 month old baby girl in my arms.

Still vexed about this issue, I took the baby with me as I searched for her pajamas – it was time for bed. I found them by her crib, and while reaching to grab them, she laughed. I relaxed and cuddled her a bit. As I cuddled her I reminded myself to make sure my reactions towards her are not related to my anxiety about something that has nothing to do with her. To relax, I started mentally listing the actions I could take to resolve the credit score problem as I put her in her pajamas and cuddled her some more.

I also reminded myself that there are 20 parents in Connecticut right now who want to be able to cuddle their babies, and yet they cannot.

All of us are mourning with them, all of us are praying for them, but many of us are also angry. Angry about the factors that led to these senseless deaths of innocent young children and their teachers in Sandy Hook Elementary School. Angry that someone, anyone, could do something like this.  Angry that this person had the tools to do something like this.

Many of us are using this anger to try and bring about change. Some (including me) have started or signed petitions about gun control like this petition from MomsRising . And while a few people will go a step further, most of our action on this issue will probably stop at those signatures.

How can we go beyond signing petitions? How else can we turn our anger into action? After some reflection, I believe the most important action everyone can and should take is to end isolation. A couple of recent blog posts about the Sandy Hook events have been shared on social networks (“I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” and “Plea from the Scariest Kid on the Block,” for example), and they are all touch upon isolation: the isolation of being the parent of a mentally ill child, the isolation of having mental illness, of being abused, of being bullied … And so, to end isolation, here are two things I plan to do:

1-      I plan to get to know my neighbors. My next door neighbors – some that I talk to, some that I don’t. Perhaps I’ll bake them cookies and leave a note saying “hello” to break the ice. Why? Because these are people who are not on my Facebook and Twitter echo chambers. They are people who might not think like me or act like me, but who might notice and say something if, say, my house was on fire, or one of my young children ran out into the street unattended. They might notice if I suddenly started stockpiling weapons and notify the police and/or mental health services. And they are people for whom I would do the same.

2-      I plan to re-commit myself to my faith community. I will pick up the phone and call people who are often isolated: new mothers, caregivers of elderly parents, parents of special needs children, new immigrants. I’ll even ask about the mental health professionals in my congregation, who need support just like the rest of us (see “I am Adam Lanza’s Psychiatrist”).

What are other ideas you have for ending isolation? Please share them in the comments below.

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Listen, Learn, Act and Reflect by Phoebe Farag Mikhail is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.