What happened in Aurora, Colorado last night is atrocious, infuriating, scary as hell, and I know it brings up all sorts of things in each one of us. My son, for example, has friends who were at that very theater earlier last night to see a different movie. They left the movie, walking past the lines of customers in costumes waiting to enter. Whether we know anybody that closely involved or not, there’s the stone cold it-could-have-been-us-or-someone-we-love realization that takes shape in a host of ways. Some of us will immediately think of how we want guns outlawed, others how we want the government to keep its hands off our weapons. Some will look to the government to initiate security measures to protect moviegoers everywhere, others will dread that further intrusion into our lives. Some will cry for the shooter to be brought swiftly to justice, others will send prayers for him and his family. Some will sit down in stunned silence and try to take it all in, others will head straight to the keyboard to post their ire and promote their causes. Some of us will feel all these things.

Questions will be raised, answers will be sought. Fists will be waved, hugs will be given. There’s no doubt about that – and those questions, those conversations, those hugs might ultimately be the long-term value we glean from such an atrocious act.

There’s a difference between being an opportunist and being an activist, I’m thinking, a fine line of difference with big implications. Instead of feeding on the frenzy we are reading and hearing, could we listen to news reports with a grain of salt and remember that they are getting information from a variety of sources and that they make money by capturing our attention? Instead of using this distressing-beyond-description event as a platform to gain votes or support for our causes, could we show respect by focusing on the personal loss sustained last night? Instead of thumping our chests, could we light a candle in remembrance of those who lost their lives, in support of those who were injured, in support of the families and friends involved? Instead of waving our placards in hopes of media coverage, could we say a prayer for those who were injured and the medical staff treating them?

The causes will be there months from now, but the people could sure use our heartfelt attention right now.

Maybe you don’t live close enough to commit a tangible act of support that directly benefits those involved, but good energy has far-reaching effects. Maybe you could take a meal to someone living near you who is tired from trekking back and forth to cancer treatments. Maybe you could find a nearby blood drive and make a donation. Maybe you could honor a pet who lost someone special last night by adopting a pet at a local shelter or making a financial donation. Maybe you could brush your teeth and hair and go share a glass of sweet tea on the front porch with neighbors you always say you wish you saw more often.

This is a heinous act for which adequate adjectives have not been invented. Let’s let it fuel us, but let’s not let it divide us. Let’s let it change us, but let’s not let it hold us hostage. Let’s let it motivate us to get creative in finding ways to show we care. Let’s let it encourage us to pay more attention to those around us. Let’s let it make us determined to create a world we want to live in, a world where we and those we love can continue to wander out in search of entertainment and enjoyment without fear.