The Pittsburgh Shooting & Perspective

“love one another chalk written on concrete floor” by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Please read all the way through, because the tone changes. I swear it’s not all about me:

I worked at the restaurant all day today (the one my partner owns, and our 6 years together makes me feel like I have some ownership over it). In addition to our usual indoor service, we had curbside service today for a Halloween event. It was also the first time we opened before 5 p.m. on a Saturday. Despite rain and wind, both inside and outside were very busy for a few hours. It was loud inside. The one time I heard the phone ring I got to it too late (they’d hung up), and if it rang other times, I didn’t hear it. I did my best to run around and get everyone fed and satisfied. I pride myself on good customer service. One of my roles in life is that of “helper”.
(Mr. Rogers would be proud.)

When I got home in the evening and read a negative review from a delivery customer who called when no one picked up, after I’d had a customer who was rude to me — and who, according to the server who started about an hour before I left, yelled obscenities at someone else’s children — I was emotionally spent. Then I went on Facebook and read the news about Pittsburgh. I read post after post, and I read the commentary left by friends on whichever article they posted. I have eloquent friends.

I posted one of the articles about the shooting and let the words flow in my response to it. Very little thought went into it. I wrote from the heart, vulnerable, little censoring. I felt compelled to share my Facebook post here on Medium:

**These are my stream-of-consciousness initial thoughts, as I learned of this event on Facebook after working all day:**

I’m sad. I’m sick. I’m angry. In my little part of the world, this stuff does NOT happen. If we all thought about all the bad shit that COULD happen, we’d lose our minds.

We need to stand up to this. We need to say that hate it is NOT okay. I try to lead with love and compassion, and I think that I do so to a fault. I feel other peoples’ sadness and anxiety (I’m an energy sponge). I give people the benefit of the doubt when they don’t deserve it. I make excuses for people. I try to see even a tiny bit of good in everyone. Sometimes I do so at my own expense. (I’m not sure that’s the correct phrasing of the previous sentence, but I hope you understand what I mean.)

I still think it’s a better way to live than hating, even though it’s often painful. In cases like this, there is obviously NO benefit of the doubt and I feel that I have to grasp to find compassion.

I don’t know if I should or shouldn’t feel any compassion and I know that there’s no answer, no “should”. I refuse to fight hate with hate or violence with violence (although I know that’s how war works).

Wanting me dead because I’m Jewish is pure hate. It’s pure evil. I like to think there’s good in everyone, but this one is challenging. It’s also a “What would Sarah Silverman do?” moment because I think she’d try to identify the shooter’s pain while condemning his actions but I’m not certain of that.
(I checked her Twitter account for commentary. So far, it’s all retweets.

Babies are born innocent, without hate. Hate is learned. Pain is acquired. We are all responsible for our own actions and we are all responsible for how we see the world.

The two shitty things that were bothering me before I read about the shooting feel insignificant and manageable now.

I want to give every one of you a hug right now.

There are so many ways to unpack my comments.

When I said “…we’d lose our minds,” that’s one of the things I say when people start with, “What if…?” I have plenty of fears. If I thought of every single thing that could go wrong, I might never leave my house. I’d be paralyzed with worry.

In the next paragraph of that post (“love and compassion”), I refer to the fact that I’m an empath but also tend to make excuses for people. I don’t know why, but I’ve always done it. I did it with childhood bullies too. I’ve always believed on some level that everybody struggles and deserves to be seen. I don’t know how I gained this knowledge at a young age. Some people who believe in such things would say that it’s knowledge from a past life. Other people might say that I was an intuitive child and just knew. There’s possibly some issues related to self-esteem in there too.

I prefer love to darkness, and love over fear, although a lot of us who put love first tend to feel darkness as a result of experiencing so much emotion. Some people experience that darkness daily, some less frequently. I think it’s one of the causes of depression. Feeling, and fighting feelings, and then losing energy because of the fight. (Maybe we should love the heavy feelings and embrace them to help them dissolve?)

As I was getting it all out, my comment about sometimes finding it hard to be compassionate reminded me of a lot of times that I’ve experienced the challenge of compassion. People who believe in god or spirit of some sort might talk about a return to love and showing compassion to everyone, even those who have wronged you. In fact, I wrote a bunch of stories referring to compassion on Medium last spring. Click on my profile if you want to go find them.

Now, there’s a vast difference between “killing” and “wronging”, so I’m generally talking here. As I said, it “reminded me”. It reminded me how hard it is to be compassionate towards narcissistic people who hurt, even though technically narcissism is a mental illness and I want to be compassionate toward the mentally ill. (No, I’m not talking about the U.S. president.) It can be hard to be compassionate towards those who steal or are cruel.

We are all born innocent.

About an hour after my original post I followed up with a comment based on how I was feeling at that moment:

Another thought: Earlier, I was sad & upset about a couple of rude customers who — separately — had valid reasons to be upset, but not rude (I was working the dining room alone, it was busy, details don’t matter at this moment).
Then I heard about the synagogue shooting. While I now feel a bunch of malaise related to ALL of it, the customer stuff does not seem important. Hopefully, customers will understand that every restaurant and server has a less-than-perfect day. Lives were lost forever. People lost loved ones, forever. There is no making right of that. This is not about me, except for the fact that I’m Jewish. It’s about ALL of us, Jewish or not. (I hate making bad stuff about me and my feelings when there’s a greater world impact.)

Naturally, this tragedy doesn’t diminish my desire to give proper customer service. One thing has nothing to do with the other. However, I can respond to bad reviews. I can offer free compensation. Death can’t be reversed or compensated. This is my point. What seemed horrible this afternoon (I gave less-than-stellar service) really is not so horrible considering the state of the world. There’s a tiny part of me that wants to respond to a negative review with, “Well, none of your loved ones died today, so your day was still a win.” Of course, I won’t, and as I said, one thing has nothing to do with another, but it puts what feels bad into perspective. I tend to amplify situations in my life that maybe aren’t as bad as I think they are (and I’d barely eaten all day, which tends to affect my mental health, perspective & clarity), but hate IS bad. Hate IS evil. This is the dark side, people.

And please, if you get less-than-stellar service at a restaurant, remember that your server is a human being who is likely doing the best they can. And sometimes we don’t hear the phone ring. Please try to bring your grievances to us with kindness.

P.S. It’s amazing how quickly this Story came together. Some days I spend an hour or three writing a post this long. This one took a half hour tops.

Digital Marketing Manager | Freelance Writer | ADHD Coach for adults | Available for hire.