It occurred to me at some point along my journey that people need safe spaces–places where they’re able to remove their mask and be fully themselves.
Living in the wilderness of north eastern Minnesota has its perks. The wildlife is beyond incredible! This morning I was gazing out my picture window watching the deer feeding in my yard. Last spring I got to see a doe, fat and pregnant , quickly followed by two adorable fawns weeks later.
I’ve had the pleasure of watching the momma doe carefully teaching the two fawns. Their cute spotted bodies soon turned to thick, heavy winter coats, and they followed her all winter long.
They’re still with her today, but now one of them has turned a majestic golden color, and has sprouted a couple of antler buds on his head. They’re beautiful creatures.
One thing caught my attention this morning, though. As I watched them grazing, I noticed them flinching almost continually.
My mind began to wander, and I played out the life of a deer in my head.
How terrible it must be to have to constantly look around for danger! My two dogs are occasionally part of that problem by chasing them around, but there are also wolves, coyotes, bears, hunters, cars… things much more dangerous than my two yippy pups.
A deer’s entire existence is laced in fear, but they always have a fallback.
Without hesitation, anytime I’ve seen a deer get spooked, it immediately retreats to the cover of the forest–to its safe space.
Like the deer, we’re hardwired to seek out these safe spaces.
Some of us may find our safe spaces among a group of friends or family, at home, in church, in a Facebook group, at work or school, around like-minded people, or somewhere else.
This is why we find it so disturbing, like a punch to the gut, when tragedy strikes. When events like the Orlando shooting, Columbine, Aurora, Paris, 9/11, and the OKC bombing happen, it ushers in chaos; our “safe spaces” have been breached, and we feel compromised.
It’s easy to want to point fingers, too. Attention is quickly turned away from the victims and placed on things like guns, “gay agenda,” or worse, blanketing entire groups of people as suspects.
Of course extremists like the KKK, ISIS, and the like exist, but we have to be cautious when identifying them. Just because someone identifies as a person of the Muslim faith, it doesn’t make them a terrorist.
It’s not about them anyway.
The response your experiencing is because a safe space has been invaded, and the reminder of exposure has been brought to your attention. Just as the deer wandering through my yard have the impulse to run, so do we.
Instead of defaulting to a fear-based reaction and getting riled up, I’d like to encourage you to recuse yourself from the situation by retreating to your own safe spaces.
It’s okay to separate yourself from tragedy. It’s okay to escape to places where you’ll be loved. It’s okay to only surround yourself with those you trust the most.
It hurts to see safe spaces be invaded. Those killed in Orlando thought they were in a safe space with like-minded people. Students of Columbine were safe at school. Folks at the Twin Towers were just going about their daily routines at work.
We’re left with painful memories. We’re left scared, feeling helpless and vulnerable.
But don’t make the mistake of hurting others in your grief. Please remember that the victims have friends and family who need your love and support. Remember that the victims aren’t the problem. Remember that the suspects have loved ones who may be grieving.
Remember that placing the attention where it doesn’t belong may only make things worse. Remember that reacting in fear is less powerful than responding with love and kindness.
Remember you have safe spaces to run to, and either get alone or be surrounded by loved ones. Remember that everyone else around you is also acutely aware that they’re also exposed.
Remember that you are a safe space for someone else. Gather up your babies, hold your friends and lovers closely, find your safe space. Remember hate can be overcome with love. Remember that.