What Am I Supposed To Do Now?


The whole world – at least our world in the United States – is trying to grasp the horrors that unfolded when a man held out a gun and shot former colleagues on live television. Everything worsened when news broke that the shooter captured his heinous acts on camera and posted them on social media.  Several of us in the office today were sharing our feelings, wondering about a world that has gone so awry and asking a lot of questions. We learned that we were all horrified and bewildered together and we probably aren’t alone, so we thought we share some of our ponderings with you.  Please share comments with us.

“Did you see the video?”

“Yes.  I heard about it and went to my office. I googled it. I saw it, it was terrible – and then I went to another video… I watched the horror unfold. And then I sat there for twenty minutes wondering what I was supposed to do with it. I saw this! Now I am part of it!”

“I went on-line and tried to watch it. I am so thankful the screen was black…but I kept looking for the video and every screen went black. And then I sat there and wondered what had driven me to even want to see this. And yet I was absolutely glued to the screen, listening to the news briefs, clinging to the drama and sucked in.”

“And that’s what he wanted us all to do. We did the very thing he was hoping for! I did exactly what he wanted me to do!”

“I’m upset on multiple levels. I’m upset that it happened. I’m mad at our country because of the need to minimize the impact of gun violence.”

“I’m horrified that these violent killings are being used by some hate groups as a call to arms and to try and discredit the Black Lives Matter movement, which wasn’t involved.”

“We’re all part of this. News stations got some of the highest ratings because of this horror.  Companies and networks make money on this through advertising.”

“I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I’m mad at myself, I’m sad at where we are in our society. I’m scared about my kids…all kids. What messages are they getting?”

“Yeah, what about those kids who actually saw the video? Now those kids can’t tell the difference between reality and play.”

“We witness this killing stuff all the time because of video games. What I do when I’m playing games looks just like the video that this guy posted. We’re in the middle of it all the time.”

“But that’s the thing that makes us numb. And those of us who saw the video or attempted to see it are in the middle. It’s real because of what we saw or tried to see or refused to stop watching as more and more news unfolded.”

“And it should be real, right?  These things are happening and need to be acknowledged instead of ignored!  And yet – this feels so gross and voyeuristic.  Is that what it takes to get attention?  I hope not. …Will good ultimately come out of it?”

“Because of social media we’re always welcomed into different worlds.”

“What do we do with this? How are we supposed to feel? What are we supposed to do?”

“It seems like all we can do is throw our hands up in the air and ask, ‘What do we do?’”

“I wish we had the answers. This is a scary world.”

“Maybe we can just ask the questions and keep talking about it. We don’t have answers…how can we?”

“But we need to take action!”

This conversation unfolded with a sense of helplessness. We know we’re all in this together. We are having the conversations.

We thought of Vincent who has inspired us to ask what we must do. “What must be done?”

And we are comforted by his words: “What keeps [community] together is the unity of hearts.”  We may not have answers right now and we know the world is heaped with horrors…but we’re feeling the pain, we’re moved by the atrocities…and together we might figure out what must be done to stop this kind of horror in our world.

We offer this with heavy hearts, with hopeful hearts, and we invite you into the conversation.

Emily Johnson, DePaul Junior; Matthew Charnay, DePaul Jewish Life Coordinator; Katie Brick, Office of Religious Diversity; Rev. Diane Dardón, DePaul Protestant Chaplain



This past weekend I was on a road trip with my wife back to our home town of Edmond, Oklahoma. As we drove the 12 hours cross-country to reach our destination, we passed through many different towns and cities. About 4 hours outside of Chicago we started to drive toward St. Louis. As we saw signs for SL and its surrounding suburbs my mother called to make sure I was safe.

“Safe?” I thought, “That is a strange thing for her to say.” Why would she be concerned for my safety when driving through a place like Missouri? Nothing ever seems to happen there.

Then the name “Ferguson” flashed through my mind. I recalled the news stories, the social media posts. I thought of the news clips and images of police in full riot gear and armored vehicles roaming the streets of this small American town. I quickly took out my phone and asked my wife to look up the location of Ferguson MO.

“It’s on the other side of the state” I thought to myself.  “It won’t have anything to do with me, or my short amount of time spent here in Missouri.”  But lo and behold, Ferguson was fifteen minutes from our current location, just north of the city.

We see things on the news. We hear things on the radio. We engage with posts on facebook and twitter. We know about the world around us and events within an instant of their occurrence, but how often do we stop and think about its true effect on our lives?

The Middle East is so far away, how would anything going on there really have anything to do with us? Ebola virus, doesn’t that come from another continent? Darfur, Syria. How can I, living in my own little reality here in Chicago, have any connection with these events?

Herman Melville once said “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men…”   But finding those fibers can be difficult at times. Sometimes it is realizing your location in regards to an event that opens the door. Ferguson is not far away. The people affected by this are not in a distant land, separated by oceans and mountains. These are my neighbors. These are our brothers and sisters and they are mothers and children who live only a small drive away. Who live next door.  Unjust treatment of African Americans is happening all over America.  All over my city.  To my co-workers and to people living on my block.

One of the things I do to bond, to strengthen the fibers that link me with my fellow man, is educate myself. If you know about what is going on, then I think you start to care. So I say find ways to educate yourself about issues that concern you. Take the time to do your own research and don’t take for granted what one sources tell you – you have to shop around for the truth.

Secondly, I pray.

A rabbi once told me that Prayer is like clapping along to a song. It might not change the song itself. It does not fix the chorus you don’t like, or change the words, or alter the notes, but it allows you to actively engage with the song. When you clap, you are an active participant in the music, you engage on a personal level.

When we pray, we show that we are active participants in the world around us. We show ourselves that empathy and thought are crucial to how we see the world. Even if our prayers might not directly affect the outcome of a situation, we are there in spirit. We are joining the greatly collective of humanity that is hoping for peace and love in this world.

When I read, I understand.  And when I pray, I empathize. Knowledge and empathy are the first steps to action. In writing this blog I am wondering where knowledge and empathy of the events of Ferguson and all over the nation can take me. I feel the need to act.  How about you? Maybe knowledge and empathy will inspire you to sign a petition, join a march, call your legislators or share your knowledge with others. What to do and how to change the world we live in are up to us.

Matthew Charnay serves as DePaul’s Coordinator for Jewish Life.