A Case for Presence in the Face of Tragedy

Photo by Jeremy Galliani on Unsplash

A Case for Presence in the Face of Tragedy

In this day and age, we’ve been programmed to assume that most news that makes the front page is usually bad news. It varies from corrupt politicians to natural disasters to acts of discrimination and prejudice – and is sometimes dotted with the occasional heroic effort or uplifting blurb – but more often than not the news does not give us the warm fuzzies whenever we consume it. Over the past few weeks though, the headlines across the nation have felt exceptionally disheartening. The death toll of the shootings in Pittsburgh, PA and Thousand Oaks, CA are enough to stop you in your tracks. Add to this the current wildfire crisis in California that as of November 13th has already claimed the lives of at least 42 people and it seems as if the stream of national tragedies will never end.

The other day a tweet appeared on my timeline that deeply resonated with me. It stated: “Being angry all the time is exhausting and corrosive. Not feeling angry feels morally irresponsible.” When heart wrenching tragedies such as the ones our nation is currently experiencing take place, I am inclined to shut down, disengage, and take an “ignorance is bliss” posture in order to preserve my sanity. Like the tweet said, it is exhausting to be angry, or present, or thoughtful about what brought us here. Yet, how can we achieve true personal or societal peace when we are faced with the senseless deaths of innocent people? At least in my case, my “bliss” feels cheaply won.

I don’t have a good formula for avoiding the fatigue of social justice advocacy. Some days, unfortunately, you will just feel burnt out from the never-ending fight. But it’s worth the struggle anyway. So, do not shirk the things that bring you joy because you feel as if you do not deserve them or that you must constantly be ready for battle. Fill yourself up to the brim with them because they are the fuel for your fight. But remember, there are still many races to be won and many victories to be had in the fights for justice, equity, and inclusion.

Even though I am tired today, I am not going to stop talking, writing, and reading about things that matter to me. I will continue to advocate for common-sense gun laws because I think the deaths of those in Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks could have been prevented. I will keep educating myself on the effects of climate change on natural disasters because I want to be able to speak about it intelligibly with my peers. I will continue to mourn with those who are mourning the death of their loved ones. But I will also go home, make tacos with my husband, and watch an episode of The Office on Netflix because that is what fills me up. I hope that you will also do what makes you happy so that you never stop reaching into the uncomfortable and hurting places that need your voice and helping hand.


Hello! My name is Kara Hoffman and I am a graduate intern at Three Rivers Community Foundation. I am currently studying at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Social Work with a Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA) concentration. I have a passion for serving victims of discrimination, oppression, and injustice in any form. I am also a Pittsburgh native and a proud lover of bridges, pierogi, and Steelers football. I enjoy engaging with the progressive social change community!

Contact me: khoffman@threeriverscommunity.org