I woke up this morning and checked facebook, just the same as any other morning. The first thing on my newsfeed hinted at a tragedy- a shooting of some kind. My heart sunk. Not again. How do people do this? The world is so broken.

And then I notice the hashtag. #Vegas.

Las Vegas. My hometown. Where I lived out my entire childhood. Where I learned how to walk and read and ride a bike. My parents are there. Are they safe? My sister is there. How is she doing? I quickly find more details about the incident. It was on the strip, after a country concert. My family never told me they were going out last night, and that doesn’t seem like their type of event. I hoped and prayed that they were safe in their beds.

Las Vegas. Where I went to middle school. Where I learned algebra and history and the Spanish that I can never remember. Where I sat in school cafeterias year after year after year. Where I learned to drive. Where I graduated high school. Two thousand people went to my high school, and many of them are still there. Are they okay? Were they on the strip? Facebook tells me 110 friends haven’t marked whether they are safe or not. *Gulp* What’s happening with them? Some of them could have easily been at that concert.

I continue scrolling through my newsfeed.

“Thank goodness we left the event early. Praying for everyone…” one status reads.

“Just got home after being on lockdown at the Luxor,” another friend states.

“STILL on lockdown at Mandalay Bay. Safe but scared.”

Wow. This is really happening. This incident hit home in a very real way. My family was only minutes away and some of my friends were actually there.

Tragedy feels different when it hits so close to home.

My body feels paralyzed with fear and heartache. I know I need to get out of bed, but I don’t see how I can. This cuts too deeply.

It reminds me of something. I’ve felt this gut-wrenching, sick-to-my-stomach, can’t-get-out-of-bed feeling before. It was the last time when tragedy hit home.

Last year, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. While this event didn’t make the news, it was still a tragedy. And it affected MY family. Much like some of the Vegas shooting victims, my husband’s life was in danger, and he needed immediate medical attention. He needed doctors. He needed blood transfusions. He needed life-saving medical interventions. And he needed prayers.

Before his diagnosis, I knew that cancer was happening around the world. Before the Las Vegas shooting, I knew that acts of violence happened in other places. Hearing about previous attacks made me sick. Reading about illness and death made my heart ache. But until these things threatened MY home, it felt just a little bit easier.

Now that the tragedy is banging on MY back door, I feel more scared. I feel angrier. I feel more devastated. I know that I should feel these things no matter where the suffering is happening, and on some level, I did. But I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the reality. These things were happening to “other people.” But now they are happening to MY people, and that hurts on a deeper level.

But it also makes me more eager to do something. It makes me anxious to help. It makes me realize that no matter where tragedy hits, it’s home for somebody. I’m more aware of the hurt in the world, and I want to make it stop. Yet I know the suffering will go on. But maybe, just maybe, I can make some small impact on our hurting world. Maybe I can bring joy to someone who is having a bad day. Maybe I can donate blood, food, or toiletries to someone in need. Maybe I can give money or time to a charitable cause. Maybe I can be a good neighbor and friend. Maybe I can visit the sick or the lonely.

When tragedy hits home, it really hurts. It’s a tougher pill to swallow, and it elicits more emotion. It’s normal to be upset when the devastation affects your friends, family, or hometown. But we should use those emotions to create something positive in the world. Make your neighborhood just a little bit brighter. Make your family just a little bit happier. Combat the evil with good.

Be the good in the world that it’s so hard to see.

_____________

My heart and prayers go out to everyone in Vegas. Please keep marking yourselves safe, and let us know how you are doing. Love you, friends!

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Julieann Selden

Julieann Selden is a chemistry graduate student and non-profit volunteer. Her husband, Ken, is recently in remission from sarcoma cancer. On her blog, contemplatingcancer.com, she examines the thoughts and emotions of life through the lens of an aggressive cancer diagnosis.

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