Charlotte, North Carolina; Macon, Georgia; and Knoxville, Tennessee are just a few of the latest sites in a spate of arsons occurring since the deaths in a Charleston church on June 17. Regardless of your personal religious affiliation, it’s difficult not to feel angry, sad, and helpless in the face of such extreme destruction. While there are some who say these arsons are coincidences, some find that theory impossible to take seriously.
The powerlessness felt by so many after such crimes can be mitigated by positive action. There are actions everyone can take, regardless of who you are, where you live, or your financial status. Everyone can offer a helping hand.
Children’s performer, Fred Rogers, once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping.’” Focusing on the good in all of us helps relieve feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and can better equip individuals to handle the difficult situations life can throw at good people. Becoming a helper by volunteering can also impart a sense of connection to those affected and bring about a deeper understanding of the internal struggles someone endures when such crimes occur.
There are charities in place helping with the monetary hardship these religious organizations are experiencing. Even small donations can add up quickly and do wonderful things for those affected by recent arsons.
Not everyone has money to spare. But it doesn’t cost anything to take up a collection at your workplace, in your own spiritual community, within your block association, school, or any other group offering assistance.
Religious sanctuaries and organizations often provide shelter for the homeless, food and clothing donations for the poor, or offer meeting spaces to addiction programs, veterans groups, daycare, and other services within their community. Help out by offering time, used goods, canned or dry food—whatever you can spare.
When a house of worship is damaged or destroyed, it can be devastating for an entire community. Allow people time and space to grieve, even to speak of their anger without telling them how they should feel. If you disagree with an individual’s point of view as to the root cause of the recent arsons, try to be open and understanding to the idea each of us will process such hardships in different ways. Insisting someone must agree with you will only fuel future fires. Remember, people have deep feelings for the role their spiritual organization plays within their community.
One way you can help stem the tide of hate is simply voicing you find it unacceptable. Sometimes, silence implies tacit agreement. If you hear someone spewing hate, let them know you disagree—if you feel the situation is safe for you to do so. Having an open, safe conversation can be a gateway to better understanding and the first step in initiating change.
If a house of worship in your community has been affected by arson, contact the religious organization associated with the incident to see what kind of help they need. Even if your skills don’t match what they’re looking for, knowing the community is behind them adds to the quotient of joy in the world.
No matter how sad we feel when hate rears its ugly head, there’s always something we can do to make things a little better. By pulling together in support of an environment based off of individual acceptance, we don’t just help the religious organizations and those individuals associated with it—we send a powerful message—together we can triumph over hate.