Arbor Circle Grand Rapids, MI
Due to the shooting at the Newtown Connecticut school this recent event seems to have struck an already sensitive nerve in all of us in the Grand Rapids community. Some find their feelings to be overwhelming: Remorse for the loss of the three lives; sympathy for their families and friends; empathy toward the therapist who was treating and something else. Fear. Fear for what could have happened, fear of what might happen in the future.
I personally know many of the therapists and support staff who are current or former employees at Arbor Circle. Some had come to our RGI Conflict Management Workshop or one of my PeaceWalker workshops or attended one of my presentations at the West Michigan Counseling Association or Michigan Counseling Association or are simply friends. My thoughts are with each of them as well as the family and friends of the three people who lost their lives that tragic day.
Being in the field that I am in, it is not uncommon for me to receive e-mails and phone calls from people who are looking for answers to many of life's challenges, namely that of empowerment, protection and conflict management. And due to the recent events, my phone has been ringing off the hook, my e-mails and facebook messages have been out of control as well. People are looking for answers; more accurately people want to feel safe.
I was on the East Coast when the Connecticut incident happened and driving back to Michigan when I heard about what happened at Arbor Circle. I was out there teaching a tactical defense seminar at Warrior Fitness before doing some training with conflict resolution and martial arts expert Jack Hoban. Jack and I were riding together in his Jeep when we heard the news of the Connecticut elementary school. As you can imagine, the news became the topic of our conversation.
Jack shared his perspective with me regarding what he thought of situations like this. I liked Jack's analogy of circumstances such as these being similar to natural disasters like tornado, hurricanes, tsunami, earthquakes, etc. He explained that humans are part of nature and like nature we have seasons, weather patterns and sometimes when conditions are just so, we experience immense storms. If you look at human nature you can see that each one of us is capable of great things as well destructive things. I like to say, "The good, the bad and the ugly." Like nature, sometimes storms happen and depending on the circumstance, innocent people can get caught in their destructive path(s). Situations like what recently transpired in Connecticut and Arbor Circle are examples of this.
So is there anything that we can do? Yes, there are somethings: Try to be prepared. Understand what some of the warning signs are. Watch for the conditions to be conducive for a storm and when things begin to take shape try to prevent, prepare for or avoid it to reduce its impact as much as possible. But remember that even if you see the pending signs you can still sometimes get caught in the devastation. The human condition can be more unpredictable than the weather, so it is no surprise that even the most seasoned professional(s) can sometimes miss interpret the warning signs or simply just be wrong. It's difficult to predict the improbable and virtually impossible to reason with crazy or fanatical. So trying to stop or legislate a force of nature can be... well futile. We can only do our best to prevent or prepare for it; be aware of the warning signs; manage it as best we can if it happens and deal with the aftermath in a empathetic and insightful way.
Are there specific tactics to deal with an active shooter, suicide bomber, psychopathy or sociopath? Yes of course. Just like there are specific tactics to deal with hurricanes, tornado and tsunamis. But they are guidelines and no guarantee that anyone will survive unscathed or sometimes at all. But try not to worry too much about these things, because they are outliers, meaning that they are not the norm. Statistically they are unlikely, however due to their high profile nature they feel more likely than they actually are. You could win the lotto tomorrow, however I wouldn't quit your job today or stop contributing to your retirement fund quite yet.
I hate to be overly redundant, but (if you read my last blog) I'm afraid I have to be:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
By Reinhold Niebuhr
Stay safe out there and...