With much of the rest of the country and the world, my heart is breaking today over the senseless slaughter of children in Connecticut. Like many, I tend to have a visceral reaction over the death of children. But any death by violence, no matter what the age, is a a hurtful thing for which I mourn. I am wracked with sorrow for each of the families affected and for every person, especially the children, who feels less safe in the world as a result of this mean, despicable act. My mind reels at the wrongness of this tragedy. Though I may not be personally acquainted with any of the families who lost loved ones today, an atrocity like this wounds us all.
Still, I try with all my might to hold on to the words I wrote to a friend on 9/11/2001 in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon building in Washington DC. Those same words seem to apply more than ever today.
This is what I said back then:
My thoughts are with you on this awful day - when the world seems to be coming unglued. I feel the need to reach out to those I hold dear to be sure the people I love are safe.
The tragedies of the the terrorist attacks in New York and DC were awful, but in a way the impact was made even worse by all the endless talk and images on the news, playing the horror over and over again. I was torn between feeling the need to be informed and needing to seek balance in the type of energy I surround myself with. Throughout the day I would check in with what was happening, but then I would turn it all off- take deep breaths, put on soothing music, pray, and look out my window into the beauty of the clear blue sky.
I kept reminding myself that every single day we choose where we will focus our hearts, minds and hands. No matter how much the world may say "the sky is falling", and even indeed when all hell does break loose, each one of us has the opportunity and the responsibility for our own response. We can get caught up in the current of the chaos or we can stand our ground - and remember to experience and express kindness at levels that take effort and commitment. Our world needs that energy right now more than ever.
I am not suggesting turning our eyes away to avoid having to deal with the awfulness. I believe it is important that we recognize the full scope of this and other horrors in order to respond in an appropriate way. Only by letting ourselves truly know it is there can we reach out to do anything about it. However, I am convinced that as individuals we can acknowledge the pain, yet still hold on to peace in our own way. While the images of this awful attack were so prominent in our vision today, every day there are hundreds of people in the world who are dying from starvation or hunger related diseases. Every day there are families ripped apart by AIDS, cancer, violence, natural disasters. Every day there is pain and horror and anguish. We just don't generally have ourselves bombarded with the deaths.
Just as every day there is tremendous pain in this world, every day there is beauty, laughter, kindness, peace. I choose which of these I will focus on. I do not have to be an ostrich hiding my head in the sand to choose peace. I can see the pain and horror. I can know of its reality. My heart can reach out to those being affected in compassion, and when appropriate I can reach out to take action. But even in the face of very real catastrophe, sunsets and flowers, a baby's smile and true acts of generosity and tenderness between friends and strangers are just as valid and just as real. I choose which to hold on to. I choose kindness. I choose peace.
Even when my heart is breaking for this sad, sad day I choose to remember we are God's children and we are blessed. I will not allow myself to be consumed by rage. I will grieve. I will give blood. I will donate to the Humanitarian Aid fun of my church. I will look for ways to reach out. But through it all, I choose peace.
I will remember all my many blessings.
One of them is you.