Let’s stop waiting for Washington to fix gun problem
The Kansas City Star
Some of us on the left appeal to our leaders in Washington to pass more restrictions on guns or provide more funds for mental health assistance. Some of us on the right appeal to our leaders about changing the culture in Hollywood or returning prayer to our schools.
We think it is about making “them” do something.
But for every “them,” there exists an “us.”
We mourn, we move on, and until “they” agree with “us,” nothing much gets done.
But until Washington begins to follow our lead, what is it that we can do?
All of us know good people in our lives and communities with mental illness. All of us know decent people who own guns.
And many times these groups overlap. But do we seek them out to ask what is going on?
Do we see someone in need and do something or do we go back to our TV sets hoping some government program comes to the rescue?
We all know someone who is suffering and we have many opportunities to build trusting relationships through empathy and caring.
Within trusting relationships transformative and sometimes life-changing things will happen. Such relationships allow us to ask the parent or friend of a struggling young man, difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions such as, “What worries you most about your son?” “Does he have access to any guns?” “Let’s talk about ways to help him and keep him safe.”
Can we lovingly guide our friends to remove guns from their homes in such situations?
Do we have all the answers? No, but we want to begin the conversation.
The two of us are a brother and sister who grew up among 11 siblings. One of us had a calling in medicine and became an emergency-room pediatrician in Kansas City who deals with gunshot victims and mental illness routinely.
The other, who now lives in Austin, Texas, saw his calling as politics and has tried to make a broken political system work, on behalf of real people.
Some of the 11 have struggled with mental illness, some own guns, but we all care about each other and try to check in with each other whenever we can.
We aren’t perfect, and we have lost one of the 11 to the tragedy of drug overdose. We just wake up each day knowing we aren’t islands.
We know there is more to life than iPhone games and the next episode of Homeland.
We have a neighbor, Liz Coleman, who we jokingly refer to as “Mrs. Kravitz” the nosy woman in Bewitched who was always peering at Darrin and Samantha from behind her curtains.
Liz is always checking in, yelling over the fence — to say hi, share a silly story or a random thought. It can be downright irritating at times, and she does it with everyone. But she, like her husband, Roger, are clergy called to serve in an urban ministry. The reason she does this is because she cares. Deeply.
She is doing her part to nurture the most peaceful and loving community she can.
We can’t wait till “they” tell “us” what the answers are or wait for “them” to lead “us” from Washington. It is really up to us to lead on these issues in the intimate circles of our lives.
It begins with us, and maybe we can all start being more of a Mrs. Kravitz. You might be amazed at the magic you can see and start.
M. Denise Dowd, of Kansas City, is a pediatric emergency medicine physician. Her brother, Matthew J. Dowd, of Austin, Tex., is an ABC news analyst and columnist.