If you are a parent, or a grandparent, if you know a child, or a person who works with children, you could not help but be deeply affected by the tragic events of this past Friday.
How do we explain this sort of a tragedy? How can we possibly comprehend it?
We understand, at least academically, that there are people in this world who are mentally ill. We understand there are those whose minds do not work the same as a `normal' person's, as yours or mine. We know they are sick, and that for whatever reason, their sickness has gone uncured and untreated and perhaps even undetected.
Although I am a Canadian and my history and my precedents are different than those of my neighbors to the south, I still understand the principle behind the U. S. Constitution's Second Amendment. I understand that this Second Amendment is sacred, and taken as literally as if it were a part of scripture by many people. I understand that and I respect that.
But as a parent, I say, there has to be a way to mesh those rights with laws that will protect innocents from the illegal, immoral and lethal acts of other people. There has to be a way to protect the rights of the many while ensuring the few do not have access to weapons, especially weapons that were only designed to kill a lot of people in a few seconds.
There has to be a way to protect our children. For they are all, every single one of them, our children.
There has to be a solution to this problem so that future generations will only know of such horrific tragedies by reading about them in their history books.
Consider all that humanity has accomplished in just the last century alone. We have put a man on the moon, and even successfully conducted heart transplant surgeries, for God's sake! We should be able to solve thisthis problem of our own making.
The loss of a child, no matter how it happens, no matter the age of the child, is a loss too horrible, too hard, to bear. It is a loss from which no parent ever fully recovers. Losing your child is something you never, ever get over. There is a hole in your heart that never closes, and an entire chapter in your imagination, entitled "what might have been" that can never be written, or knownand yet it's a chapter that can never be closed up and put away.
Such a loss is undoubtedly more tragic when the child is still small. I remember my own kids at those ages: actually my eldest was 10, my second son 5 and my daughter was 4 all in the same year.
Those are years of wonder, years of learning to read, of making friends, of beginning to participate in sleep-overs. They are years of cartoons and best friends and singing along with your favorite songs on you tube. They are years of writing letters to Santa, and getting excited because Christmas is just around the corner.
For each parent who is now in mourning, my heart breaks. There are no words we can offer you to make it better. We can only pray. We can pray that you receive strength and hope from the Comforter, and that in time your memories will be more sweet than bitter.
We can't do anything to heal your heart. Only God, and time, can do that, and only to a certain degree. As I said, that hole will be there, forever.
But the day will come when there is more joy in remembering than there is sorrow. And maybe, if we can all work together, if we can be open and honest and leave politics and hyperbole behind, we can find a way to prevent some of these tragedies from ever happening in the first place.
Maybe we can give you, and ourselves, and the society in which we live, the gift of hope.
As I get older, I hear words come out of my mouth that I used to hear come out of the mouths of my mother, and later, my father-in-law.
I remember how I felt hearing those words too, words that began with the phrase spoken or intuited, “back in my day”. This would appear to be the same way those around me feel when I utter that same concept—if their eye rolls are any indication. There’s a tendency, I suppose, to dismiss out of hand some of the grumblings of the senior generation. I understand that, actually, because I do fully recognize and accept that the older I get the crankier I can be.
That said, I do believe, unrelated to the emergence of my inner curmudgeon, that it can generally be said that in this day and age, two very important—dare I say sacred?—qualities seem to be lacking in our society: common sense, and the art of compromise.
Lack of common sense, when I was a kid, used to get me a swat on the back of the head—or a more severe punishment, like being grounded. Lack of common sense used to be something most people avoided like the plague. To be accused of having no common sense was a stinging indictment, a horrible insult, or in other words, a really bad thing.
When, and why, did that change? Why did we kill common sense? I don’t have the answer for that, but I sure as hell see the results of it in the news nearly every single day. I’ve read stories of a kindergarten boy being suspended from school because he placed a kiss on the cheek of a female classmate. Georgie Porgie anyone? Actually, school administrators are the most bereft of common sense, if you ask me. The latest asinine school admin decision I’ve read about? A boy brought a clock he made to school to impress his teacher and ends up suspended and being considered for charges—hoaxing a bomb, wasn’t it? If you want to charge anyone with that, charge the dumbass teacher or principal who panicked and called the police.
Yes, I know. Perilous times and blah blah blah. People, do I have to say this? Yes, hold the line. Be vigilant. But if y’all are going to run around like chicken little, divorcing your common sense and, apparently, your intelligence, guess what? You’ve handed those terrorists a huge victory—a bigger one, in fact, than the one you’re trying to prevent.
I can just hear them over there now at terrorist central. “Ha! Over in North America they used to have freedom, they used to be caring and kind to one another, they used to have rational discourse between political factions. But we fixed all that!”
Just think about it for a few minutes. It might sink in.
Thinking of those political factions brings me back to the second virtue that’s been murdered: the art of compromise.
Didn’t our parents tell us that we could not have our own way all the time? Mine did and I am positive yours did too (you know, in the days of common sense).
Here’s how I will explain the art of compromise it in terms relevant to my husband’s and my life for those younger folk who don’t know what it is. We married young, and went from our parents’ homes to our own. We had but a weekend honeymoon. David grew up in a family with both parents, but more, a father who was the Commander In Chief. He’d say “jump” and everyone would ask, “how high, sir?”
I grew up in a house where my dad was the head of the family until he died when I was seven and a half. After that, my mom was in charge, and did everything from earning the money to cooking the meals, to fixing the toaster when it broke. She built window valances, and planed one of the plank floors upstairs to make it level.
David and I got home from our honeymoon and my dear new husband tried his hand at edict-issuing a la his dad. He said, “I’ll tell you right now, I eat roast beef, roast pork, mashed potatoes, cream corn and canned peas.” I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry. We don’t earn enough money to eat roast beef and roast pork every night. So you’ll have to eat what I put in front of you.”
We very quickly compromised: he would try everything once. What he didn’t like, I would not make again. In those days the only thing he didn’t like was liver. Now he’s older, and he even likes that too.
I hope we can all get back to common sense and the art of compromise. In my opinion, they can make the difference between living a good and meaningful life, and merely being alive.