A shift occurred in me the very instant I became a parent. I could no longer watch TV shows that I used to enjoy; I found it hard to be entertained by story lines of children being killed, or kidnapped, or abused. Any movie I watched that involved the black depravity of mankind being focused on a child made me sad. Just plain, deep-down-in-you-stomach sad. Images of starving, sick, or abandoned children squeezed my heart. Hard. I needed to purge my head, and my heart, of those dark scenarios if I had any hope of being a well-balanced mother.
Today's deadly shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut filled me with grief and despair. My Facebook newsfeed was flooded with condolences and outrage by family and friends who, like myself, feel a genuine, and overwhelming sense of grief, and loss.
I sometimes feel that as a society, we are poised at the edge of our seats, waiting for the world to hit rock bottom before we act, before we take action to actively swing the pendulum back the other way. Surely the mass murder of four year old children should be our breaking point- surely, I cannot be the only one saying, "This is it! We NEED to act!"
I do not have the answers; I am an answerless pit of questions and doubt. I know that I cannot change gun legislations. I know that I cannot be The World's Defender in time of great need. But here's what I do know: I've had enough. As my friend Gina said, simply and profoundly: "Something has to change." We have the power to change things, right now- tonight.
We need to invest in the mental health of those around us (mentally sane people do not see the logic in shooting up a little school.) We need to find the money to recognize, treat, and support those in our communities who are battling their own personal fights from within. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye and fein ignorance. These people are not "throw aways"; we, society, need to do better.
We need to teach our children that they have immense value. They are not the sum of their popularity (or lack thereof) at school; they are not the sexual objects that media is hell bent on turning them into; they are not the first people to feel voiceless and misunderstood. There IS life after high school. We need to arm our kids and young people with confidence: in themselves, in their ability, in their talents, in their uniqueness. We need to instil in them forgiveness, compassion, and empathy...and in the right situation, outrage. We need to repeat, endlessly, that kindness is needed; that it is never ok to stand by while others are being hurt; to defend and speak loudly about what they believe in- whatever that may be.
We need to be kinder. When did that become uncool? When did being nice to people become cliche? This notion- to just be nicer- is ridiculously simple. Try it, in small amounts if need be. But just try it.
We need to stop being so angry, so judgemental, so full of hate. It poisons your soul, weighs down your heart, changes who you are fundamentally. The relief, and rejuvenation you feel when you let these things go is all encompassing.
We need to stand up for others. We need to be brave, confident, indignant, and strong when they themselves cannot. We need to foster a greater sense of camaraderie, of unity, of community. These can make all the difference to someone.
We need to tell our family and friends that they are important to us. Hold them close, and tight, and make sure they know that they are loved, appreciated, and valued. Forgive easier, apologize sooner, make an effort to stay connected. Tell your children that they are amazing, that you love them, that they are everything you have EVER wanted. Even your teenagers...after all, they'll eventually start acting like human beings again...you hope.
It is the small things, the values that we we ingrained with growing up, that will start pushing the pendulum back. We need to change; we simply can't continue on this path and expect goodness to be waiting at the end. Hug your children tight tonight. If you don't have kids, just hug someone, anyone. We could all use it.