Every time, now, that I see a parent and a young child together, or hear a young voice, or look into bright eyes, or see our flag at half mast, my heart is heavy and full of grief. How have schools in our country become so unsafe, a place for horror and violence? How could we ever have let this happen? The holidays are overshadowed by our national tragedy and we are all looking for solace and community out there in the world that might give us some comfort and hope. In his speech at the prayer vigil in Newtown, I was heartened to hear President Obama say that we are not doing enough to keep our children safe. That is clear. Since last Friday, there are a number of petitions circulating to support gun control and perhaps they will have an impact. There are also voices speaking out for more effective, accessible mental health care. And, there is renewed alarm at the prevalence of violent video games. For me, the most powerful and true words of the President were the following:
We come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children. This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.
These words are echoed in Susan MacKay wrote in her beautiful post on Opal School Blog:
As our hearts break over the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we are looking for ways to keep our own children safe -- both in body and in spirit. How do we raise children in this society where we've grown our own kind of domestic terrorism? How do we raise them to have hope and courage and to continue to care?
Susan refers us to resources posted by Brene Brown that are extensive and all helpful. And she reminds us, as Fred Rogers did, to focus on the helpers and look for them.
Advice from Mr. Rogers (shared by Angel Marie):
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."
I will always remember a New Yorker cover the fall of 2011, just before Halloween with children in firemen and police uniforms, dressed as their heroes, trick or treating in the glow of street lights and autumn leaves.
Susan calls us to nurture our children to become helpers with body and spirit, head and heart connected, where we can, however we can.
This is a worthy calling that belongs to all of us.