“They Might Have Guns But We Have Flowers.”

paris2In a recent interview at the scene of the Bataclan attacks in Paris, one French father shared a beautiful message of hope with his young son.

In the short clip, the son says that they will have to leave their home because of the terrorists. After the father’s reassurance that they won’t be leaving, and that France is their home, his son pleads, “They have guns, they can shoot us because they’re really really mean daddy.” His father then replies, “It’s okay, they might have guns but we have flowers.”

“But flowers don’t do anything,” says the son.

“Of course they do, look,” says the father, pointing towards them, “everyone is putting flowers. It’s to fight against the guns.”

“It’s to protect?”

“Exactly.”

“And the candles too?”

“It’s to remember the people who are gone yesterday.”

“The flowers and candles are here to protect us,” says the son.

There’s a short pause as the reporter, the father and the son smile warmly at each other, and then the reporter asks the boy, “Do you feel better now?”

“Yes, I feel better,” says the boy.

Some may argue that this exchange was ‘soft’ or naïve, because of course flowers and candles cannot protect us from bullets and bombs. And yet, these things can protect us from the hatred and fear that terrorist attacks inevitably cause. Expressions of love and unity protect us from closing our hearts; they protect us from disconnecting from each other.

Mindfulness practice teaches us how to redirect our focus; away from dwelling endlessly on the men with guns and towards the acts of courage and love which have been shown not just in Paris, but also in Beirut and other parts of the world. That’s not to say that we ignore the tragedy of what has happened and that we should not educate ourselves on the spread Islamic Extremism and do whatever we can to prevent it from spreading. But it is helpful to consciously notice the continuing goodness of people too. People like Adel Termos, who selflessly tackled a suicide bomber to the ground in Beirut, thus saving countless others from the explosion.

Thankfully few of us will ever face the terror of gunshots. Yet we all face the fear those gunshots send echoing across the world. If we can mindfully look to the goodness of people, to the flowers and candles, to the kindness expressed in the face of horror, then we have not lost.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping.’” Fred Rogers

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