DEAR READERS: Once again, we have reached a day in American history that gives us pause. Thirteen years ago, the unthinkable happened. Freedom and innocence as many of us once knew them were erased forever. No longer would we ever see a low-flying plane in the sky and trust that it was simply on its way home. We experienced raw evil in a way that can never be erased from our memories.
And so we consciously choose to remember 9/11 each year, honoring those who died on that fateful day and those who remain alive mourning their loss -- and the loss of freedom that accompanied this horrific tragedy.
Most of us do not have a good enough grasp of global politics to understand why anyone would do such a terrible thing. What we see far too often, though, is that evil remains strong in the world. We are grieving an American journalist who was publicly beheaded because America staged drone attacks to try to end genocide in Iraq. From an observer's vantage, nobody is winning this international game.
And then there's the warfare at home. Whether it is incessant murder in Chicago, a child unloading an Uzi on an instructor or a husband or wife verbally or physically abusing a spouse or child, unthinkable behavior is wrecking our families and communities.
What lessons can we learn at this time of reflection that can turn the tide in our lives? I believe we must start by looking closely at our own lives to evaluate how well we are living. Ask yourself if you are kind to yourself, for starters. How well do you tend to your own needs on a daily basis? If you do not care for you, it is impossible for you to do a good job caring for someone else. Next, look at your loved ones. How well do you care for them? Do you accept responsibility for the things that are in your jurisdiction? Do you neglect your duties? Go through this checklist, looking at every aspect of your life. What can you do differently that can improve the quality of your life and of those around you?
Pay attention to how you behave when you are feeling stressed. Are you short-tempered, irritable, sullen or indulgent? Check yourself to ensure that you know what your stress behaviors are. Then add an activity to your schedule that can serve as an antidote, such as exercise, reading or getting enough sleep.
By taking care of those aspects of your life over which you have control, you can create a tiny oasis of peace in this world. From there, you can create space to support others and help them gain a sense of peace in their lives. You can do this by volunteering, through your church or community center or an international service organization.
Amazingly, it is possible to bring joy to the world one person at a time. Every chance each of us gets to spread happiness is an opportunity to heal the world at least a little bit. I am not being naive; I know that bad things will continue to happen. But we do not have to contribute to them. Let us choose to be loving rays of God's light one moment at a time.
(Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)