Over the weekend, one of the deadliest mass shootings took place at a "The Dark Knight Rises" movie showing. Though I live far from Aurora, Colorado, where the shooting took place, I was deeply moved by tragedy. Sadly, this wasn't the first mass shooting I'd heard about on the news -- I still can recall those broadcasts flashing images of Columbine, the DC Sniper, VA Tech -- but this one seemed different. Perhaps the nature of where it took place is what left me so stunned. A movie theatre is a place for enjoyment -- and, more importantly, for escape from the troubles of the real world -- and to have something so horrific happen in a place of imagination and escape just seems even more tragic.
When seemingly senseless tragedies like this occur, it's hard to stay positive. Random acts of violence make seeing the good in the world increasingly difficult. In general, it's difficult to stay focused on what's going right when the news often focuses on what's going wrong. With all the negative stories being shown on the news -- all that heartache and loss and tragedy -- it's hard to have hope. It's hard to believe that, in spite of all the madness and chaos, there is goodness in the world.
After hearing of the horrific incident that took place at "The Dark Knight Rises," I found my own hope waning. How could I be hopeful about my own future when there was so much darkness in the world? How could I see the light when constantly barraged with images of negativity and hate? And, perhaps more importantly, how could I share my message of positivity when I was failing to feel hopeful myself?
The other night I found myself in bed, alone in the dark, imagining the terror those people in the movie theater must have experienced. I felt a rush of fear, tainted with immense sadness. I opened my eyes and noticed light from a streetlamp slipping through the slants in the blinds, painting a faint yellow light across the wall. It wasn't a lot of light, but it was enough to brighten the room. In that moment, I realized: even in the darkness, light can shine unexpectedly. Even in this broken world, hope can light up our lives.
The key is to let hope in. Even when things are tough -- even when they seem terrible -- we have to have hope. Without it, it's much too easy to be overtaken by negativity. Without hope, we'll live forever in the darkness, never noticing that light slanting across even the darkest of times. The world is undoubtedly broken -- mass shootings, war, heartbreak, and pain -- but, as John Green said, hope is not crazy. It is necessary.
How to Have Hope (Even in a Broken World)
Notice kindness in others. With all the negativity in the media, it's can be hard to believe people are actually good. But they are. Look around and identify the kind acts you see. Pay attention to the doors being held, the favors being done, the smiles being shared. Make a list if you can. In every day, there is kindness, goodness -- you just have to look for it. Choosing to notice the good will make you feel hopeful and will remind you that, in spite of the darkness, there are little glimpses of light.
Be grateful for this life. Cliche as it is, the old "every day is a gift" saying rings with truth. Tragedies like the one that took place over the weekend remind us of life's uncertainty. We really don't know what day will be our last. Now, before you let that idea bum you out, make the choice to see it in a positive light. The unexpectedness of life should not cause you fear; instead, it should inspire you to be thankful for every day, every moment, you're alive. Each moment is a opportunity and to realize that is to have hope.
Avoid negative-only news. Most news sources focus primarily on the negative things that have happened over a course of a day. It's important to stay well-informed, but it's just as important not to let the news suck all the hope from your life. If you must watch/read the news, supplement it with some positive news (like Happy News or Daily Good). Seeking out positive news stories and focusing on them will encourage a sense of hopefulness, a belief that goodness really is out there (even if we have to look a little harder for it).
Be enthusiastic about life. The more you love about your life, the more hope you'll have. If you enjoy what you do, who you're around, and how you feel about yourself, you'll be much more hopeful when faced with negativity. Make an effort to be enthusiastic about life. Spend time doing what you love. Spend time with people you love. The things that matter most to you are the things that will help you embrace hope when times are tough; these are the things that will inspire you to believe in the good.
Even days later, I struggle to shake the sadness and fear I felt when I first heard about the shooting at "The Dark Knight Rises." Perhaps I will never shake the feelings completely. But I know now that I have hope -- and that's not something to take lightly. Hope shines its light in even the darkest corners. Hope is essential to living a positive life, to believing that, in spite of all this chaos and pain, there is goodness. Hope is not always easy to hang on to; like light slanting through a window, it's not something we can easily grasp. But we must do what we can to hold on to it -- to believe it in. As Tyler Knott Gregson said: "Please hold on to your hope. It is in such limited supply around the world these days. Hold on to it and be proud that you are one of the ones that does."