It has been one week since a horrible tragedy took place at an elementary school in a small town that could have been my own. I considered myself lucky that I was busy working on Christmas orders that day, and didn't even hear about the event until late in the afternoon. Right then and there I decided to NOT give life to this most unthinkable act of violence by reading about it or hearing about it if possible. Past experience has taught me that I cannot undo the terrible and frightening images that are invariably left in my mind if I even take a peek. I find they are haunting.
But despite my best efforts, I have been forced into conversation about Newtown, Connecticut. And so, the door has been opened and it cannot be closed. Which leads me to wonder, if I am so strongly affected by this story, how are those parents, those children, those teachers, those first responders - those survivors, either in the school or related to the deceased, supposed to go on, for I truly cannot imagine. My heart aches for them.
I spent most of the day on Tuesday, anxious and upset, and cried several times for the innocents that were lost last week. And it's taken me a while to process things. But I discovered that I was also grieving for my own lost innocence with this painful reminder that sin knows no boundaries. Though plenty would categorize him as evil rather than a sinner, I am struggling with questions about the lost soul that committed this crime against . . . Who? His parents? A community? All of us? And as I look into the smiling eyes of my two-year-old son I am left wondering how you get from here . . . to there?
This same question harassed me for months after reading the novel 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult when Sheep was in kindergarten. If you haven't read this book, I would recommend it, but know that it is as unsettling as everything I have since watched and heard about the events last Friday. The tragedy in Newtown has reawakened those questions, those fears, all the anxiety I experienced after reading her fictional novel about a school shooting and the events that led the killer to commit his final act of violence.
And I want to know if/how we as a nation, as a community, but mostly as individuals could do something different so that these children, who are often bullied but probably all marginalized, might feel connected to the people around them. Could feel loved, accepted, supported by more than just their parents. I think about how many people have loved and encouraged my children over the years - and if you were to add it up, you too might find that it extends so far beyond you that it is truly a miracle. But ALL children need to feel that. In fact, don't we all, even us grown-ups, want to feel that?
I read a quote from one of his classmates that said he didn't recall the shooter ever being bullied in school. But I can't help but reflect on the difference between 'not bullied' and 'being included.' One is a lack of action. The other requires action, and often lots of courage and patience and love as well. We are all busy. And now we are all afraid. But that shouldn't stop us from remembering Jesus' two great commandments - to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. Are we watching for those little souls that might need an extra hug or kind word from us? Are we seeking them out?
After a day of tears and heartache (for I cannot process this information with my head, only my heart), soul-searching and prayer (LOTS of prayer) I snuggled down with my kiddos to enjoy a Charlie Brown Christmas Special, hoping to just take my mind off of things for a bit. Still wondering how I, much less they, move on from here, God reached through my television and spoke to me.
"And the angel said unto them Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."
Turns out the angel of the Lord looks a lot like Linus Van Pelt, but I'll take it. And I hope you will too, because He's got this. As crazy awful as this whole thing is, He's got this. My continued prayers go out to all those involved in Newtown, Connecticut. May you find peace and comfort in the arms of the Lord.