When I saw the headlines about the shooting in Texas, I felt my stomach turn over.
I don’t think I can handle another one.
It seems like 2017 has brought us a rash of mass human casualties at the hands of crazy gunmen,leaving innocent people scarred and bodies strewn all across our nation from Las Vegas, to Charlottesville, to Sutherland Springs. I am angry, scared, heart-broken, and utterly confused.
We’ve got a big problem guys.
And it’s not guns.
Today I just really felt the need to say NO to my gut reactions to all of this.
What I want to do is cry and shake my head and then my fists at the attacker and everyone one who contributed to his downfall. What I want to do is read articles about the violent trends that seem to be escalating at an alarming rate. My gut reaction is to sit here with this snake of worry in the pit of my stomach and feel it coiling up through my chest, wrapping around my heart with a frighteningly strong grip, bemoaning the world into which I brought children. What I am tempted to do is read a bunch of articles and statuses and see all my friends on social media experience this horrific awfulness with me. I am tempted to go on a rant about what role, if any, increased regulations might play and how to deal with this problem.
But I am not going to do any of that.
I’m going to turn off the news. I’m going to get off the freaking interwebs.
I’m going to sit.
I’m going to watch these leaves fluttering around my backyard and the way the sun dances in between them effortlessly.
I’m going to listen to my breath and the sounds of the appliances and the birds. I am going to observe the trees which seem to be changing into new colors every day.
I’m going to think about each victim. I’m going to imagine their faces. I’m going to think of every single one of these individuals as the clock ticks by today. I’m not going to rush anything. I am sitting in memoriam.
I’ll probably check the clock nervously, hoping it’s closer to 3:30 so that I can go grab my babies from school and hug them in a surprisingly fierce way that makes them shake free with furrowed eyebrows and annoyance.
When we are walking home, I’m going to call out to that kid I always see trudging by our house with his head down. I’m going to shout out awkwardly:
“Hey!”…and when we he looks up, I’m going to say, “You’re a great kid. You matter. You are loved.”
I will feel silly. So will he.
I’m going to let my kids see me cry, if I need to cry in front of them. I will tell them that there are bad men out there, but there are far more good ones. I will read the names of the children who died to them. I will ask them to sit with me and be still in memory of those who have passed for just a minute. They will do it, reluctantly. As they get older, it will become automatic. To be able to sit still with grief and give it space is a skill.
If we have learned anything about these terrible events at all through reading about the shooters, it is that at the heart of each of these tragedies, there was an original victim. There was a child who was left to flounder in pain. There was a child for whom isolation and detachment became a means of survival. Later, that instinct would turn deadly. Isolation is the training camp and breeding ground for violence and destruction. Many perpetrators of these violent crimes were victims themselves at one time.
So in my own little way over the next few weeks, I’m going to pursue and fight against that isolation in myself or in others when I see it. I will cup the cheek of a “difficult” child in my daughter’s class. I will look for his eyes and when I find them I will whisper, “You are wonderful.” I will wage war on isolation in any child I see. Boldly. I will confront lies I see my friends telling themselves about their worth or beauty. There isn’t time to be sympathetic. There is only time to speak truth to each other’s hearts.
In my home, I will fight against my own urge to isolate from my spouse or children when I am hurt by them. I will turn IN to my family. I will lean in to being vulnerable. I will listen as my child stammers over her sentence and takes forever to focus and tell me what she’s so desperately trying to tell me. Even if it’s just about LEGOs. Especially if it’s just about LEGOs. I will be still and listen. I will wait.
The answer is not in the ballot box, friends.
More laws and more regulation may help a little, but it won’t really change anything.
If we are ever going to kill this monster of “Loneliness/Isolation” in our culture, it is with the ability to genuinely weep for the pain of others and see it as our own, and to teach this to our kids.
There isn’t a lot we can do to stop this.
But you can join me in becoming a warrior against loneliness and isolation in humanity and especially in children-both yours and those you know. There are little battles near you every day in your heart, in your family, in your neighborhood.
I’m saying “nah” to debates and political arguments and “yes” to eye contact. Yes to loving touch. Yes to facing down this giant ugly monster called “Loneliness”. I am reaching out even if it is embarrassing, because that’s all that I can do.