As a parent whose children are my world, I was at first in a sort of state of shock about the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings. On Friday the 14th, I watched the sketchy information from the initial news reports numbly, not yet tearful, not yet wholly comprehending or wanting to comprehend. I found it impossible to accept that it had really happened. Since the first media bytes streaming into my living room seemed so disjunct on the initial details, I kept trying to optimistically wish and/or hope that it wasn’t as bad as it had first seemed.
Of course it was, and worse, and it wasn’t until I saw the video of President Obama weeping on a friend’s Facebook feed that I realized how bad it all truly was on an emotional level. Of course, logically I’d understood. It was very, very bad. But the tears didn’t come until I’d seen the President’s tears, and then somehow that made me able to finally get in touch with my own emotional reaction to the event.
I believe that was Friday evening. Saturday, I alternated between crying, numbness, watching the news on 3 or 4 different media outlets and then shutting the news off in a state of disgust and despair. It is so hard to see that kind of pain. My empathy for the victims’ families was so strong, I felt the pain sharply within my own soul. That is not to say I can imagine what they are going through; I cannot. It makes me sad and mad, though, that their Christmas/ Hanukkah/ whatever holidays they might celebrate this time of year have been ruined. The events of 12/14/12 may be what these families must remember, every year during the holidays, from now on.
Each year since I’ve been an “adult”, I’ve worked to rekindle that festive Christmas spirit that used to visit me automatically when I was a child. I try to recall that innocent place of blinky pastel lights and tinny carols echoing from somewhere, vividly drawn cartoons, the mysteries of lovingly wrapped boxes. Oh, the flavor of candy canes! The crisp scent of fresh fir tree! The indescribable feeling of elation. The sweet happiness that kids feel, simply because it’s holiday time. That’s what I wish those kids were still around to experience right now.
I was just beginning to barely feel that fleeting holiday spirit again this year, when the Thing happened. The Thing that had the power to rip away everyone’s holiday joy. Knowing that those sweet peoples’ festive season is ruined, makes me feel somehow selfish in even wanting to enjoy, guilty for indulging in the richness, the color, the vibrant magic of the season.
But then something occurred to me. If everyone gets depressed and saddened to the point where we say no to joy this season- if we just give up on it, maybe go through the motions of festivity but feel dead inside- we are not honoring the precious angels whose lives were taken too soon. We are not making the country, the world a place worthy of their memory.
Out of respect for the beautiful pure lives of the dear little 20, as well as the heroic adults whose time on Earth was cut far too short, I will to try to be as happy as possible for the rest of this year and into the beginning of the next. I’m grateful for the very breath of life. I am going to allow myself to laugh, and yes cry when I need to, but also grant myself permission to experience joy without guilt. I’m going to give every ounce of strength and love within me to those around me.
I believe there is a ripple effect in this existence, and if I can still allow myself to be lit up inside by Beauty then maybe some of the light will ripple outward and other people will be able to experience it too. Let me plate up a healthy serving of humility here. I’m not saying ‘I’m special‘; I’m dowdy and a housewife with thin hair that I am loathe to style and most days you can find me in jeans and sweatshirts that need laundering. I don’t have anything great inside me that everyone else doesn’t have. Anyone can choose to try to stay positive. It isn’t entirely selfish to feel good, despite an impossibly bad situation.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
~A quote attributable to Buddhist teachings
I believe that the sweet precious little angels would not want any of us to be sad for too long. They wouldn’t want to let whatever form of mental illness that the person (I can’t bring myself to call him a man, and person is a stretch, too- idiot, maybe?) who took their lives was going through to sicken our spirits this holiday season. I am not saying to forget about these sweet babies. We can honor, respect and cherish them as our own children. The purest of souls would want for us to enjoy this holiday with empathy, gratitude, love and light.
Here are some ways to donate to the families of Sandy Hook Elementary school. There is also a link to Ann Curry’s blog post detailing her bright idea of committing to 20 acts of kindness for each of the innocent lives lost. (Or 26, to honor all the victims including the heroic adults.) I am currently thinking up ways to do this, and will report on it soon. I’d love to hear about what you’re doing or planning to do.