Monday, December 17, 2012

Better to Light a Candle Than Curse the Darkness

Each detail that emerges about the tragic shooting in Connecticut is more devastating than the last, but I cannot turn away. I spent the weekend reading story after story, stories about the victims - twenty (twenty!) precious six and seven year olds and their heroic educators - about the perpetrator, about the community, about gun control and about mental illness, and despite this information overload, I still cannot wrap my mind around what has happened. It is unspeakable, and I just don't know what to do. Because - there has to be something to do. Right? We can't just sit here, crying, watching the news and shaking out heads in disbelief. There has to be something more to do. Right?

I wrote to my representatives, I signed the petition, and I'm going to think more in the coming days about what I can personally do to (besides preach to the choir and shake my fist at the TV) to support the fight for strengthened gun control laws. I believe with every fiber of my being that gun control is a moral imperative, and I am hopeful that this latest tragedy will finally spur some action. I'm still too angry to clearly articulate myself on that at the moment, but I will soon. Still, all of the writing to politicians and asking them to do something feels so small and ineffectual.*

I'm about to get super cheesy here, so consider yourself warned. The political aspect of this is so important, and I'll be following it closely, but I think that, for all of us non-policymakers, the most important thing we can do is be the light and the love that Dr. King talked about. In the wake of any tragedy that threatens our faith in humanity, we must go above and beyond to help restore that faith for ourselves and everyone around us. As usual, Mr. Rogers said it best.
{image sources, clockwise from top left: James Keivom/NY Daily News, Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters, Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters, David Goldman/AP, Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters}
We can't all rush to the scene of the disaster to offer aid, but we can be "helpers" by practicing the small, everyday kindnesses that serve to remind us that people really are basically good. We can hold the door or the elevator, we can let people go ahead of us in line or in traffic, we can offer smiles and kind words to strangers. We can choose patience and compassion over frustration and judgment and forgiveness and understanding over resentment and anger. We can decide to assume the best instead of the worst about people's intentions. These are small things and none of them are going to ease the pain of the families who are grieving instead of celebrating this Christmas, but each one is a small flicker of light, a challenge to the darkness, and a reminder of our basic goodness. We cannot allow all of that pain and grief and suffering to be the end of the story.

It is going to take a lot of love and light to overcome the hate and darkness that descended on Newtown on Friday. We had better get started.

*While you're writing stuff - you can also send cards with messages of love and support to PO Box 3700, Newtown, CT, 06470. The Newtown post office set up the P.O. Box in response to hundreds of calls from people around the world who want to "send their thoughts and prayers in the form of letters, cards, care packages and drawings from their children."  A USPS employee said that they are preparing to handle "an enormous amount of love coming through the mail" in the coming days. See? Basic goodness. 

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