All we can do is all we can do, within our individual sphere of influence. Because many things in life are out of our control, it’s important to determine whether we have the ability to effect change in any situation.
We can only impact the people with whom we interact and the circumstances with which we can engage. Certainly, we cannot control or change another person. However, we may be able to contribute to a positive outcome. Sometimes, we cannot. Nonetheless, we need to know the difference between what’s possible or appropriate and what’s not in any specific situation.
We need to exercise self-control in order to effectively manage our feelings and behaviors when we seek to engage. We may intend to help. We may be astute and understand the situation. We may have the needed expertise and judgment. Or, maybe not.
In any event, even when individuals have good intentions, there is no guarantee about how things will work out. A recent example illustrates the hard reality that sometimes, even when we do all we can do, it’s not enough.
On Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 in Parkland, Florida, a mass shooting occurred at a high school. The perpetrator, a 19-year-old, with a long history of mental illness, extremist views and anger issues, killed 17 people and confessed to the shooting.
The shocking and devastating truth about this massacre is that some authorities did not do all they could or should have done. This nightmare and others like it could have been avoided.
We know that, in this case, various agencies received multiple warnings about the shooter’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts. Numerous people did all they could do by reporting behaviors and observations of the shooter over many months. Two heroic teachers did their best during the melee, sacrificing their lives, to save students.
The school resource officers, sheriff’s department, FBI tip line and some mental health professionals did not do all they could do. And, 17 people were killed.
What happens when we do all we can do, and no one listens? What if bad things happen despite our best efforts? Does that mean we shouldn’t engage?
The stories of tragic consequences when people refuse to “get involved” in difficult situations are too numerous to mention here. Conversely, myriad stories of heroic action when individuals give their all, celebrate the best of our humanity.
We are in this life together. We need each other. To quote the words from the 1964 Broadway musical, Funny Girl, “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
I believe that, although no outcome is guaranteed, we have a moral obligation to engage, giving our best efforts in any situation. This challenge precludes unwelcome intrusion, interference, disrespect for the law or of someone’s inalienable rights. It does however, suggest that, when we have the opportunity, time and talent to contribute constructively, we are morally compelled to engage.
What about your experience? When have you done all you could do, or not? Did you contribute to a positive outcome, or not?