We joined the rest of the nation this past weekend in being saddened and angered by the El Paso and Dayton shootings. As Texans, the El Paso shooting hit us particularly hard; we know El Paso to be an incredible community, and knowing that someone traveled from another part of Texas to kill innocents gave us great pause.
But we also know that in the light of tragedies that reveal the worst of us, people come through to reveal the best of us as we strive to heal and be stronger. We were particularly impressed with 11-year-old Ruben Martinez, who came up with the idea of the “El Paso Challenge” that’s spreading on social media.
The concept is simple: One random act of kindness for each of the 20 people who were murdered at the Walmart in El Paso on Saturday. Sadly, two more people died from injuries suffered in the shooting, bringing the count to 22 – but Ruben simply decided to up the challenge to 22 acts of kindness, to honor the two additional people who died.
The challenge was intended for the people of El Paso. As he put it, it was designed to for a simple reason. “I want to show people that El Pasoans are good,” Ruben said. “They’re loving and are caring and are willing to do anything to help out.” But as it’s spread on social media, people from beyond El Paso are jumping in to commit random acts of kindness. The more people do that, of course, the more it counters the terrible actions that took place last weekend.
So, what does this have to do with divorce? It’s an extremely emotional process, and it can be incredibly difficult for people to be kind in the midst of it. But, so often, it affects children who are caught in the middle of it, and the unkindness that consumes parents in the midst of divorce can inadvertently extend to the children.
The first act of kindness that a divorcing couple can extend to each other is to be civil to each other during the proceedings. There are actually provisions called standing orders, typically accompanying divorce petitions, that lay out specific rules of engagement between the divorcing parties. While it can be difficult to maintain one’s emotions during a divorce, it makes it easier in the divorce process for a couple to maintain civility throughout. It doesn’t mean that spouses can’t be upset or disappointed or angry with each other until they become ex-spouses – but it should never be in a way that’s detrimental to the couple.
One of the things we emphasize most in divorce, almost as a mantra, is for clients who are parents to think of the children. Sometimes, in the divorce process, this means “giving in” to your spouse on a particular point – not to give your spouse a “win,” but because it’s the move that makes the most sense for your children and their well-being.
You also want to think about your co-parenting relationship after the divorce. For couples without kids who get divorced, the divorce process can end once the final paperwork is signed. But, for couples who have kids, the relationship continues after the divorce – it merely changes from married parents raising kids together to divorced parents who are still raising kids together. Parents love their children regardless of their marital status, and co-parenting needs to reflect that.
While we’re sad that it’s taking a tragedy to reveal the good that exists within so many of us, we’re glad that a brave 11-year-old has stepped up to remind us to be better. While acts of kindness shouldn’t be reserved for situations like this, it’s good to have the reminder that these acts of kindness are what make us selfless and make us human, and that it’s important for us to maintain that even when we’re hurting. Indeed, it can help us to heal and help us regain our sense of purpose.