Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 6, 2019

The El Paso Challenge

It has happened again. This time two mass shootings in two days. Incidences of violence like these now occur with enough frequency that while they evoke anger and outrage they no longer surprise us. That, in itself, is sad. And, because of our connected world, as soon as the bullets stop flying then politicians and pundits start firing blame.

Assigning blame does nothing to assuage the grief of those who have suffered unimaginable loss. And it has done nothing to stop the violence. According to USA Today, the El Paso and Dayton shootings make for 251 mass shootings since the first of the year. These shootings have claimed more than 520 lives and injured close to 2000 people.

The reality is that today there are families that are hurting in a way far deeper than the rest of us. Their lives have been turned upside down. While they grieve, collectively we are all asking why. We all want answers. We demand solutions. When Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tried to offer comfort at a vigil following the deadly shooting in Dayton, the crowd repeatedly shouted, “Do something!”

Do something, indeed! But what? Democratic US Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio said that our “thoughts and prayers are not enough.” He may have a point. Unless we are willing to do more than pray but to also consider how God might use us as the answer to our own prayers then nothing much will change. And thoughts that do not lead to some type of intentional and compassionate actions also do little to help.

In the midst of all this, one eleven year old boy from El Paso wanted to do something to help his grieving community move toward healing. After giving the matter some thought, Ruben Martinez approached his mother Rose with a practical idea — challenging the people of his community to do one random act of kindness for every life lost in the shooting that rocked his community and our nation.

Rose posted her son’s challenge on social media and the rest is history. Ruben’s challenge has now reached much farther than the city limits of the West Texas town of El Paso. National news outlets picked up the story. Ruben’s idea quickly resonated with so many around the nation who care and who want to do something. This is a practical “do something” that any of us can and should do. A simple but powerful idea — random acts of kindness to counter random acts of violence.

Imagine what could happen if each of us expressed kindness to those whom God puts in our path — regardless of the color of their skin or their religious or political leanings. While the El Paso Challenge will not stop future mass shootings, it may just be the thing that gets someone inclined toward hurting others to think again. People who hurt, it seems, tend to hurt others. We should never minimize how God might use a random act of kindness to impact a confused and hurting individual.

Thank you, Ruben, for reminding us all to do good in the wake of great evil. I accept your challenge.


  1. Thanks Omar for a great encouraging blog. #rubenmartinezrocks #elpasochallenge

  2. I accept your challenge…

  3. Heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing this challenge from Reuben. As we finish up our vacation with our 6 grandchildren, I plan to share this with some of them, especially our 10 year old grandson, and 2 teenagers. They sadly heard the news of the shootings at the beginning of our trip. It grieves my heart they are growing up in such a volatile society. Apart from a true returning to put God first in our families and in our country, it will most likely get worse. Love and compassion lived out like Reuben’s challenge is a start.

    • Thanks for sharing this with your grandkids who are old enough to understand, Charmé. I believe that God can and will use every act of kindness. You are right that our families and our nation must seek and return to God and embrace the sanctity of human life or things will indeed get worse.

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