I learned about the attacks in Paris while I was at shul last night. I've lost track of how many times I've watched the entire congregation rise as one to recite the Mourner's Kaddish for people we will never know, all over the world. I know it won't stop any time soon.
The Mourner's Kaddish is not a prayer about death. It ends with a poignant plea for peace:
oseh shalom bimromav
hu ya'aseh shalom aleynu
v'al kol yisrael v'imru amen
may the one who makes peace in the heavens
grant peace to us on earth and to all people
and let us say amen
A few years ago, there was a string of hate crimes against refugees living in Concord. The community came together in solidarity, and bright yellow "love your neighbor" signs went up in windows all over the city to show that the violence of a few would not be allowed to overshadow the kindness of many.
The signs have faded now. Many have been taken down. But we still need the reminder.
There is so much senseless violence and hatred in the world right now that I barely react anymore when I hear that there has been another shooting, another bombing, another earthquake or hurricane. I am growing numb, desensitized. I think we all are.
Part of the responsibility of being an artist is documenting history. Part of the responsibility of being an artist is bringing beauty into a world that desperately needs to be reminded that there is good left.
There are so many days when it feels like there's nothing I can do. I know I'm not the only person who feels helpless. But I believe in art, and beauty, and kindness, and so this is my promise: every time the world weeps or is torn apart by violence, I will try to counter it the despair and rage with something beautiful or kind.
I recorded this a few nights ago, and hesitated to post a link anywhere because it seemed like too small a thing to matter. (And some other day, I need to talk again about #dontselfreject and not being confident about some of the art that I make.) But I did anyway, and it turned out that a friend had indeed needed to hear that song at that particular moment.
The small things matter.
If you feel helpless, join me. Take a photograph of a sunset. Buy a few extra cans of food and drop them in the donation box on the way out of the grocery store. Sing to your children. Write a poem. Put a sign in your window. Post kitten photos on Twitter. Find something beautiful to share on Facebook. Smile at a stranger. Light a candle. Bake bread. Knit a scarf. Donate blood. Remember the name of someone who died. Say "I love you" to someone.
Because the small things matter. Like a faded sign in a window, they remind us that the violence of a few can not overshadow the kindness and beauty that is in the world.