It's been a few weeks since I've written anything, and with my last two columns focusing on the Newtown tragedy, I was planning to move on to my usual fare - difficult mom moments, my favorite homemade hot chocolate - and the like, but I've been experiencing a strange form of writer's block.
Despite a whole list of topics I could cover, I haven't been able to sit down and get anything out. Finally, I realized that I just wasn't done with Newtown, just couldn't move past the twenty-six lives that were so wrongly taken.
So, thank you for sharing some time with me as I explore the things we've all been discussing, hearing, thinking, and, most importantly, feeling.
I've heard some really interesting opinions over the last month. One afternoon on NPR, the discussion was what should be done to make schoolchildren safer. A gentleman called in and vehemently began promoting arming all school personnel with tasers and handguns. The host was gently appalled ("Are you sure?"), but this gentleman was not to be dissuaded, ("What else can we do?!").
If I'd had the time and inclination, I would have enjoyed calling in and asking this gentleman to think back to his school days, and consider if he'd really want all his teachers armed. This is no insult to the profession; I was a teacher myself for several years. However, just like with any profession, there are abuses, and illnesses, and... issues. And that's not even going into the practicalities of having all these guns in a school at all times, subject to being misplaced, lost, or taken away by an aggressive student. Clearly, this is not a viable option.
On the other hand, as a former teacher and current parent of young children, I would not at all mind seeing all school personnel being trained in some basic self-defense. And I'm guessing that some teachers in certain middle schools and high schools might not mind this training, either. The trick would be to dispel the concern of litigation. Oh, how we love to sue each other!
One of my favorite overheard discussions, though, happened at my mom's church. I won't go naming names, or anything, and the church happens to be in a town at least thirty minutes away, so don't bother trying to guess.
A group of ladies were discussing the shooting with one woman laying the blame securely on the school and its use of windows. "What are they doing having windows in the lobby!"
Really?! The windows are to blame? Schools shouldn't have windows??
All right, let's get right on removing all windows from all schools. Personally, I'm very excited over the possibility that my children may get to grow up feeling like they are in prison. I really want them to hate school as much as possible.
As an added benefit, they would already be used to living in an airless, claustrophobic environment, so I see our country excelling in anything that involves living in a submarine. Huge economic potential there.
But to return to a somber note, all of these wild ideas and theories that we're hearing come from people who are scared, angry, and confused, and want life here on earth to make sense. Nobody wants to see this type of tragedy happen again; we simply have different ideas about how to bring that to fruition.
One wish I've been having, as I overhear conversations or listen to commentary on the news, is that I could hear the words "maybe" or "perhaps" more often. I heartily wish that people weren't so entrenched in their beliefs.
I would love to hear a gun-owning Republican say, "Perhaps there should be restrictions on the types of guns private citizens can own."
And I would equally love to hear a pacifist Democrat say, "Maybe we need to listen to strategies drawn from military and police sources to help protect our most valuable citizens."
At my church last Sunday (Unitarian Universalist), a visiting minister from a nearby Congregational church was giving the sermon, and he brought up an important question. "What is your strategy for suffering?" It wasn't a question I had ever specifically considered before, but it occurred to me sitting there that its consideration was definitely overdue.
The minister quoted Robbie Parker, the father of Sandy Hook victim, Emilie Parker, speaking to the press just a day after the shooting, and exemplifying a moment of breathtaking grace.
"...I'd really like to offer our deepest condolences to all the families who were directly affected by this shooting. It's a horrific tragedy, and we want everybody to know that our hearts and our prayers go out to them. This includes the family of the shooter. I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well..."
What is your strategy during times of extreme sorrow and suffering? Clearly Robbie Parker and his family, a family at the very center of the Newtown tragedy, have found their strategy in love.
Even before, and now since, this tragedy, I've been hearing about smaller, more personal tragedies around town. I know these heartbreaks have always happened and will continue to occur, but perhaps I'm feeling them more as I put down deeper roots in my new community.
These roots are providing a sense of place and home for my family, and the richness of these developing friendships is irreplaceable. Yet, the sharing of joys comes at the cost of also sharing the sorrows, but this is a cost well worth paying.
Life is far from one-sided. Everyone will experience happiness. Everyone will suffer.
No one should ever feel ashamed asking for or accepting help. In fact, it's a kindness when we accept help that is truly needed. When we allow a friend to ease our suffering, we are also easing our friend's suffering.
I've been so proud to read about all the ways our community has been showing support and providing what help we can to Newtown. Between Operation Snuggle, Coginchaug Cares, Strong School's wearing of green and white, balloons displayed on people's houses, and innumerable deeds done privately, we have helped show our friends in Newtown that they are not alone.
And likewise, thank you to Newtown, for so graciously accepting our attempts to warm and comfort you. Our offerings will never make up for what happened, but you are so kind to let us try.