Where do I even begin? Yesterday morning I posted part of the 1st Reading we heard at Mass, not knowing that these words would take on a different meaning for me.
“Return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning”
Yesterday didn’t start off on the best foot. Tony, our preschooler woke up at some point and snuck into our bedroom and took my phone. My phone is my alarm clock. Joe’s is his. We have another backup one set just in case. I should have just gotten up when the backup one went off, but both of us fell back asleep. It was nearly 40 minutes past what time we normally get up when Joe woke up with a very loud choice word that woke me up too. Because of this Joe was running 15 minutes late. All of us were running late. There was lots of rushing, hurrying, and shouting (my Lenten Fasting from yelling already broken on the first day. Today has been much better though) to get dressed and teeth brushed. It calmed down. Everyone got hugs and kisses and lots of “I love yous” as the 2 oldest walked out the door to get the bus.
I got the girls dressed, Tony’s lunchbox packed, and out the door we went to drop him off at preschool. As I walked him to the door, his teacher asked if I could help with his Valentine’s Day Party. Of course! I had hoped to as I had helped at the oldest 2’s parties, and was kind of disappointed when I didn’t get a note in his bag on Monday. I called my mother in law who said yes she could watch the girls. Again, rushing to get their bag packed and head back out the door to drop them and get back to preschool in time for the party. I think the kids in class had a great time. I know I did.
I left and got the girls, went back to pick up Tony a few hours later. We got home and waited for Joey and William to get off the bus.
Yesterday, as we walked into our home, our sanctuary, the TV I left on told a story of kids that wouldn’t be getting off the bus. Of parents rushing to where their kids’ spend a majority of their time, their school, to find out if their child was among the dead or injured. I say it every time there is some sort of lockout/down situation in our district, rushing to the school to grab your kids isn’t the safest thing. It takes a toil on the police’s main job of finding and stopping the threat. But if, and I pray it never does, an active shooter were to happen here, I don’t know what would stop me from rushing to my babies.
As I watched in horror the story unfolding on the news, I opened one of my grade schoolers’ folders to find our school district’s safety protocol sheet. For sometime now they’ve been practicing active shooter drills along with the standard tornado and fire drills. There’s now 5 key phrases and actions that go along with each. Out of those 5, 4 of them cover what to do if the threat is in the form of a person.
This thought just keeps running through my mind and has since I was a part of the parent teacher advisory committee.
“Active shooter drills are our kids’ atomic bomb drills. But instead of the threat coming from some foreign country, it’s coming from our community.”
Tears welled up as our priest added a petition for all those killed, all those wounded, all those that love them, everyone affected. This effects everyone to varying degrees.
There’s been several shootings at schools* in 2018 so far. The fact I have to add “so far” breaks me. I’m sure it breaks every parent. That thought, that seed of fear I think is ever present in every parents’ mind: What if this happens at my kid’s school?
We do our best to not turn our families into hermits, even though that seems like a good idea at times, especially after tragedies like yesterday. We go to the grocery story, the movies, the fair, concerts, parks, church. Some are more vigilant, more watchful, more aware of those around them and their surroundings. Others hold their kid’s hands tighter. At times we relax our guard, like at church. At some point, many go back to what was “normal”.
We send our children off to people that love our kids probably the most after family: their teachers and other school community members. These men and women have dedicated their lives to helping us to educate our children. Parents and teachers, we’re partners in this important time of our children’s lives. Teaching is their profession, but there isn’t a class that teaches them to love their students.
I have seen it first hand. My grandma would recognize students she taught in kindergarten. You could see her eyes light up when someone would come up and say, “Mrs. Hathaway?” They would twinkle as she saw her 5 and 6 year olds who were now grown adults, much the same way they did when she looked at us. When she passed away, there were so many former co-workers and students that testified to the impact she made in their lives. That’s love.
I’ve seen the love my mom has for her students. The dedication to helping those struggling. The tears she’s shed for those that have passed away. The small things that make a huge impact on her students. That’s love.
If you’ve ever heard a teacher speak outside of the classroom, more often than not you’ll hear them to refer to the students as “my kids”. That’s love.
The story of the aftermath is on the news. The victims’ names are being released. Eyewitness accounts are being told. Pictures and videos are being shared.
Three of these stories are about about a teacher, a coach, an athletic director who died because they put themselves between the suspect and their kids. That’s love.
Paraphrasing John 15:13, “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for another.” Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel, Chris Hixon, Victoria Soto, Anne Murphy, Dawn Hochsprung, Mary Sherlach, Michael Landsberry, and others gave their lives protecting our greatest treasures, our children. That’s love.
God says return to me with your whole heart. Bring me your wailing and weeping and mourning. He is there for us in the sadness, the heartbreak, the tears, the whys, the anger, the confusion, the love.
But He also asks, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” in Isaiah 6. Isaiah answers “Here I am Lord! I will go!” The Lord also calls out to Samuel by name while he slept. Samuel, not understanding it was the Lord calling him, went to his master, Eli. After a few times of this, Eli understood it was the Lord calling to Samuel and explained this to him. The next time the Lord called Samuel, he answered, ” Speak, for your servant is listening.”
He calls all of us by name like he did with Samuel, just as Jesus said to the disciples, “Come. Follow me,” and asks each of us to go for Him, to bring Him to them and them to Him. We can either choose to ignore it or give our answer to someone else, or we can answer the Lord, “Here I am. Here I am to follow You. To learn and live Your Love.”
I don’t have the answers and I don’t know why.
I’m not going to debate here the whys and why nots, the shoulds and should nots. It’s not that those aren’t important. It’s more because I can understand both sides. And there’s so many and each has a point, and each is right, and each is wrong. There’s no black and white. It’s just all shades of gray.
I wrote this as a Facebook post back in 2012 after Sandyhook. It’s just as relevant today as it was then, and will be after every tragedy until there are no more.
“I’ve been thinking very hard the past few days. My heart aches for those families and all touched by this shooting. I hugged my boys even tighter that night and every night since, grateful that I am able to do so. My mind cannot even try to understand why or how anyone could do this. I really don’t think I want to know. I cry every time I hear or read something about it.
I don’t know how to solve this problem. But I don’t think that going to any extreme is going to solve anything.
Schools need to be safe places, as do libraries, houses of worship, malls, movie theaters, backyards, parks, homes, everywhere.
It is unfortunate, but there will always be people who break the law, people who see violence as the answer, people who have no compassion or consideration for others. No matter how much anything is regulated, those people will find a way to at least try, if not succeed to do what they want to do.
But we need to remind ourselves that those people are far outnumbered by those that love us, care for us, and protect us. Sometimes it’s hard to remember because we aren’t bombarded by stories and images of good Samaritans and acts of kindness by the media. It’s hard to see that love and compassion with all the negativity in our world. But all we have to do is take a look at those around us to see “the good guys”: our families, friends, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, medics, service men and women, religious leaders, nurses, doctors, and so many others in our lives.
Maybe we need to work a little harder to be nicer, kinder, more compassionate and considerate to one another. Maybe we need to work a little harder to really appreciate “the good guys” every single day rather than just for a few weeks following tradgies such as this. Maybe we need to work a little harder to instill thoughtfulness in our children. Maybe we need to work a little harder to be less selfish and to listen to others better. Maybe we need to work a little harder on focusing on things that really matter. Maybe just maybe if we work a little harder we can make this world a better place for our children and ourselves.
I’m going to try a little harder everyday for the rest of my life. I know I’ll have my bad days and good days but I’m going to try. It’s the least that I can do.”
I hope that after all my rambling, that second to last paragraph sticks with you.
To try to work a little harder for Love.
I’ve been trying, and there have been days I’ve failed. But I’m not giving up.
I pray that you don’t either.
*These shootings include every discharge of a firearm that have happened on school grounds, not just those that fall under what most would consider “school shootings”. Everytown USA does not give a whole report of each firearm discharge incident that occurs at a school. Everytown USA is extremely biased because of its pro-gun control nature. Both the Washington Post and the Washington Examiner have pointed this out and have listed a more descriptive report of each incident.