I think the situation hit me so hard because I have children that are approximately the same ages as those who perished. Last week, I was the parent in school - sitting with the school principal, psychologist, social worker, counselors and various personnel discussing an education plan for my second grader at 9:30 in the morning. That massacre could have happened anywhere. If it had happened in our neighborhood - at our school - I would have run out to see what was happening and probably would have fallen victim. And our children, three in the same class, could have vanished in one fell swoop.
"Oh, don't let yourself go there..." a little voice of reason in my head says.
But the frightening reality is that it could happen. And the odds of it happening seem to be on the rise since gun violence is so prevalent that I'm convinced nearly every week, the newspaper contains a story of someone that died from gunshot wounds over something unimportant. Mistaken identity. Music too loud. For as long as mankind has existed - evil and violence have existed, too. And it will continue to exist until the end of civilization. What do we need to keep ourselves safe?
Never leave the house?
Of course that's not a viable option. Life goes on. The sun will continue to rise each day and we cannot be immobilized by a fear to live. Although yes, I have briefly considered homeschooling and having groceries delivered to our door. That would certainly reduce the amount of time we're in public; the amount of time spent on the road; and the amount of gasoline that I'd need to pump - hence reducing my exposure to benzene. Since gun violence, auto accidents and cancer are the leading causes of death, perhaps I'd be able to avert our own mortality by these causes? But then a meteor could hit us - or a bear burst through our door - or fierce food poisoning from pizza (with my cooking skills this is a distinct possibility) - or something else that we never expected nor prepared against.
Alternatively, we can live our lives as courageously and as beautifully as we can. We can equip our kids (and ourselves) with a plan for what to do if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation when someone enters a space we are in and they're intent on hurting us. We can hide, we can play dead, we can run like the wind. We've discussed, in very general terms with our children what happened on Friday, and we've tried to answer questions that really have no answers. We've impressed upon them that we must continue to step out in love and kindness and not let fear harbor us. This is life and I believe we're supposed to be here at this exact moment in time. But none of us know when it's our time to leave this earth which is why each day - each moment - with our loved ones is so incredibly precious. To see all of the broken hearts in Connecticut this weekend, I think we're grimly reminded just how fleeting life can be.
Dr. Carlton goes on to explain, "Life is in a constant state of change. Everything has a beginning and everything has an end. Every tree begins with a seed and will eventually transform back to earth. Every rock is formed and every rock will vanish. In our modern world, this means that every car - every machine - every piece of clothing is created and all will wear out and crumble; it's only a matter of when. Our bodies are born and they will die. A glass is created and will eventually break. There is a peace to be found in this teaching. When you expect something to break, you're not surprised or disappointed when it does. Instead of becoming immobilized when something is destroyed - you feel grateful for the time that you had. The easiest place to start is with the simple things, a glass of water, for example. Pull out your favorite drinking glass. Take a moment to look at it and appreciate its beauty and all it does for you. Now, imagine that the same glass is already broken - shattered all over the floor. Try to maintain the perspective that, in time, everything disintegrates and returns to its initial form."
I don't care how you dice it ... it's immobilizing that so many young lives were intentionally shattered on Friday and the ripple effect of this situation is incomprehensible. After a situation like this, people are either going to suggest that there is no God because how could a God have allowed something like this to happen? Or, they're going to cling to their faith like never before. As for me, I believe that spirituality is like a magnet. There are two opposing forces on opposite ends of the spectrum and each one of us possess the ability to be drawn to one side or the other, or perhaps reside somewhere in between. We must always strive to be a force of positive and touch other lives with love. We never might know the ripple effect that we can have on others with a kind word or deed. I started to write down some antonyms to highlight this spiritual dichotomy but was instantly reminded of the words of St. Francis...
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is pardoning that we are pardoned and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Everything will return to its original form.
Until then: live, laugh, savor the beauty around you .... and love.
Do whatever it takes to love, love, love.