Who knows who is out there? Who knows what they want to do? Who knows where or when they will strike?

The world is a scary place and we have every right to be scared.

On one hand, we trust our government to protect us. On another hand, we are worried something or someone will slip through the cracks. Those we trust to protect us are incredibly smart people, working incredibly hard. I wouldn’t want to be them.

In response to fear we move to better neighborhoods or safer countries. In response to fear, we also fear the person and the place we don’t know.

For some, migrating to a new neighborhood or a new country is easy. For most, it is not easy and they are forced to live in unsafe environments, desperate for a better life in a better place.

Of course, for all of us, it is easy to fear the person or the place we don’t know. Incredibly easy.

In this time of domestic and international terrorism, the fear of place and people is palpable. We don’t know if we can walk down the street, go to church or commute to work.

The question is how do we respond?

Just as it is easy to be afraid, it is easy to lash out at those who are afraid. Dismissing their legitimate fears, ends the conversation.

We can be afraid, but we can also be compassionate.

Showing compassion to those who are afraid of the place and people they flee is surprisingly similar to showing compassion to those who are afraid of the place and people they don’t know. Both cases require a level of trust in people and institutions. No easy feat.

Of course, it would be nice if our elected officials were to model this kind of behavior. But, it is a bit early for a Christmas miracle.

In the meantime, what I’ve learned in the last 72 hours is that I have a responsibility to avoid the pull of either side. Especially when what many people fear are people who look like me.

This is personal. For all of us.

It is okay to be afraid, and it is okay to be compassionate.

The challenge is to be both.

President and CEO of National Immigration Forum and America is Better, author of There Goes the Neighborhood, host of the podcast, Only in America.

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