I am reposting something I wrote earlier this week because it was my Bigger Picture Moment…but I don’t want to just leave it at that as we head into Christmas, so if you’ve already read this, please stick around for what I have to add just at the end.
If we were really meeting for coffee today, you’d find me curled up in a hammock, wearing yoga pants and a comfy sweater, cupping my coffee to me. If we did speak, it would be quietly.
When I heard the news, I was at The SOLD Project helping set up and prepare for our Christmas party. It was an event full of delight, as friends, students, and community came to put on a really awesome show. We had about 200 guests and everything came together without a hitch, and with plenty of laughter and festive cheer. But for me, it was like I was walking through the whole thing with cotton buds in my ears. It was muted as I began to process shock. Grief. Disbelief. Sadness.
I found myself looking into the eyes of our 5- and 6-year-olds and finding it impossible to imagine how a person could do that and pull a trigger. There’s just a wall in my head where that cannot go.
Every morning, I wake up and find my Facebook stream absolutely ablaze with everyone processing this tragedy in their own way. I know that anger is just another form of grief and fear, but it saddens me to see people attacking other people, instead of discussing the content of their ideas. It just goes to show how fresh and raw the wound is, I suppose, that we are so quick and ready to see the worst in each other and to find distaste rather than commonality.
Yesterday, I posted a tribute to the victims, a black armband of shared mourning. But as I typed those names onto that black square, I was acutely aware of all the names that I wasn’t typing. The names of the 20 school children in China who were stabbed by some crazy head that very same day. The names of the children in the Congo subjected to violence and horrors almost daily. The children in Central American countries. The children in Chiang Mai. I wondered whether our nation would have responded this strongly if Sandy Hook was a school on the south side of the Bronx and all the little children were brown, instead of blond little angels named Grace?
I don’t feel this is an appropriate time to drag race issues into the mix, and I’m really not trying to poke at people where they’re already sore. Empathy is never a bad thing and it’s impossible to feel the full scope of sadness for all the sad things in this world – a person would absolutely break. But for me, that question is there. It lurks because part of what defines tragedy is the extent to which we identify with the victims, and simply being fellow humans is rarely enough.
Last week, I confessed about all my existential questions about the point and meaning of life, and the sense of absurdity I felt in it. This week, I sense that we can pose all those kinds of questions we like, but none of them do a damn bit of good in helping us confront the fact that life must be lived, every day, one day at a time. There’s tragedy. Some days that tragedy is as huge as the murder of innocents. Some days the tragedies are as minor a freshly baked tart dropped on the floor. Most days, it’s something in between: unaffordable medical bills, a crappy or even lost job, a bitter argument with someone you love, a flu you just can’t seem to shake.
And it’s okay because there’s other stuff too. There’s the handwritten cookbook full of family secrets passed down. Presents under the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. A shy 14-year-old belting tunes all by herself, in a foreign language, out in front of a crowd of 200. Husband and wife secretly copping a feel and sharing a laugh in between job and chores. A puppy climbing in your lap, seeking warmth and comfort, when you’re trying to go to the loo. Family giving you a space at the dinner table, despite what you said to them earlier that day. A stranger anonymously fulfilling an unspoken need.
This is how we live life, day in and day out. We cry at the tart so lovingly made and so carelessly splattered to the floor. Then we scoop it up, scrape off the abused parts, and eat the rest of it anyway.
Here’s what I’d like to add as we turn now towards Christmas. It’s easy…comforting, even…to respond to such tragedy with fear, anger, and hate. It’s much harder to respond with love. But if we cling to that security blanket that we can weave so delicately with yarns of sadness, despair, and fright, and pattern with disgust, vitriol, and spite…if we hold that dear and treasure it, those who seek to incite terror and to make people pay for the hurt they feel inside will be the ones who win. If we let the Dylan Klebolds and Adam Lanzas of the world cause us to suffer, they win. Their mission will be accomplished.
But it is love, not hatred, that helps us heal. Choosing forgiveness over sorrow is what makes us stronger as people. Mercy, not punishment, is what makes us humane.
You might be thinking, “Oh, she’s all the way in Thailand, far removed from all this. She’s not a parent of the children lost. What could she know?” Well, I’m human too, and I speak from the experience of my heart from working with kids just as innocent as the ones we lost last week, but who are subjected to all manner of abuses, the kind most of us cannot even fathom. I speak not from my strength, but from theirs. They have all the reason in the world to hate the world, yet continually, they respond to love.
This Christmas, as you hold your dear ones close to you, send love.
Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us!