“I can help you with that. Don’t do it yourself,” the kind woman at the hardware store said to me as I looked down at the twenty pound bags of Ice Melt. another customer beckoned to her and when she turned her back I started lifting the bags into my cart one by one. As I lifted the final bag she returned, “I could have done that for you! I don’t want you to hurt yourself!” I smiled back and replied, “It’s ok. It wasn’t kicking or flailing like my kids do, so I was just fine.” “Do you need help to your car?” “No thanks, I’m good,” I said as I weaved my way to the check out line. It reminded me of my days in film school… the days where you had to prove you could hold your own among the men or you’d get trampled on as they went by. I learned then if I could physically do it, then I would. It was a man’s world and I had to meet them there. I smiled over those remembrances all the way home. I hadn’t heard the horrible news yet. My day was still good.
But then I heard about it… on social media, on the news outlets- a boy had walked into a school and shot several people. The developing story only offered bits and pieces of information as it trickled in, but it was close to home- about an hour away, in the kind of place these things don’t happen.
That’s what they all say, I’m sure. The parents that watch their children’s schools come under attack. “Not here. Not us.” Until it is here and it is us.
The other parents around the country breathed a collective sigh of relief that this time it wasn’t them. Their kids were safe.
A quick Facebook search brought me to the page of the mom of one of the victims. We have one mutual friend. Two degrees separation. That’s too close. Prayers and condolences flooded her newsfeed from across the country- strangers reaching out to her in her time of despair. I doubt she has read any of them- she’s probably keeping vigil next to her daughter. She must be terrified, finding it hard to breathe with the world closing in on her. She must be on her knees praying for a miracle with tears streaming down her face. That’s what I’d be doing. I’d be begging.
My children don’t know about what happened today. They don’t know about the last time it happened either. Nor the time before that. I can’t tell them. They do ‘bad guy’ drills in school, but the concept that such evil can go unchecked is foreign to them. They worry about best friends telling the truth, about playground arguments, or feeling left out of the crowd. They don’t worry about guns. They don’t worry about death. At school they are safe. Dear God, I pray they are safe.
There are many things my children don’t know about, things I have kept from them. They haven’t seen planes ram into tall buildings, bringing them crashing to the ground with the screams of those trapped inside. They haven’t dodged the ash as it fell from the sky. They haven’t ducked for cover at the sound of a gun going off. They’ve never lost someone that they love. They don’t grieve for a sibling they never knew existed. Do I shelter my children from these things? Yes. I do. They will hear the stories eventually. The oral histories of our families will be passed down as they have in generations past. But for now, I want them to be children. So I temper my stories around them. I guard what their eyes see and their ears hear, for once it is seen or heard it will remain. I choose to let them be little as long as they can, as long as the good Lord allows.
I don’t think there’s an easy answer to the gun debate. It isn’t black and white- but Lord, I wish it was. We all know violence doesn’t end with guns. It takes many forms- knives, box cutters, explosives, vehicles. If someone wants to kill, they need only choose their method. It’s a gun issue, but it’s also a heart and mind issue. It’s a parenting issue. It’s a violent tv/video game issue. It’s a devaluing of human life issue. It’s a socio economic issue. It’s a race issue. It’s an anger issue. It’s a drug issue. It’s a self esteem issue. It’s a social media issue. It’s a government issue. It’s a church issue. It’s a school issue.
It’s a sin issue.
And until the hearts and minds of people change, it isn’t going away. So we pray. We pray for peace. We pray for those that feel unloved, that lash out in ways that hurt us all. We pray for people to step up and be courageous, to confront evil, to not back down. We pray that our children don’t live in fear. We pray they stay safe. We pray that we can do everything in our power to stop the next time before it happens.
And we pray for the ones that have gone before us- for the parents that didn’t get to say good bye, for the kids that died before their time. We pray for the gaping holes left in their wake and the communities that still feel the pain of their loss. And we especially pray for the day we can all say, “Not here. Not us.”