It means something when I say, “My thoughts and prayers are with you.” It means I stopped, found a place of stillness, and held you in my heart. In the way of my spiritual tradition, I affirmed love, healing, comfort, and strength — or whatever other qualities might be needed in the moment. Prayer is a place we begin, not a place to stop. You can’t just “pray and walk away.” Instead, we can “pray for a better way.” A better way to communicate. A better way to heal our country and its polarized wounds. A better way to be a good human. 

It's natural to look for change in the outside world, but maybe we should be praying for change in our own hearts. Maybe it’s time to explore our own biases and learn to change our own behaviors. I once heard a speaker say, “people on the left are very accepting — of anyone farther left than they are.” It caused me to pause. I had to ask myself how accepting I am of people who are right of me politically. It made me consider whether I put much effort into understanding their point of view. I certainly expect them to listen to mine. But am I willing to listen? Am I willing to change myself as I pursue change in the world? How about you? Are you willing to change?

My heart aches over the Club Q tragedy and it would be hard for me to listen to anyone who felt anything less than horrified by what happened. Still, I keep asking ‘what can I do at a time like this?’ I come back to the same answer. Change what is broken inside me. As children, we said “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Guess what. That’s not true. Words hurt. In unimaginable ways.

It's time for us all to grow up and be accountable for our part in what’s happening. To lower the frustration, anger, and violence, we have to up our game — find a better way to talk to people who think differently than we do — attempt to see more than our own perspective. No matter which side of things you sit on, you can make the world better by sincerely trying to understand what others are concerned about, how their opinions were formed, and what their fears are.

We are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends, colleagues, and collaborators. We live in an illusion that suggests we are separate from one another, but if you fly above, you’ll see there are no boundary lines drawn on the planet. We breathe the same air, bathe in water that circulates around the globe endlessly, and look at the same moon at night. If we want the world to be a better place, it’s up to you and me to become better people and to find common ground. It begins in our own hearts. Let us pray for wisdom.

Rev. Dr. Ahriana Platten is an interfaith activist, community bridge-builder and leadership trainer. She serves as board president for Citizens-Powered Media.