One of the biggest challenges as a parent is to have to explain this chaotic world to an unspoiled mind. To find a way to put words to things that defy reason but are important to understand. My daughter is too young to know about what happened today in Connecticut but this is the world she inhabits and the world she will need to be able to navigate. I think about what I would say to her if she were a few years older.
Any normal human would feel empathy for the victims' families and as a fellow parent even more so. But to have an intimate understanding of how piercing the loss those bereaved parents are suffering--it is crippling to wander too far in. So I retreat back into fury over how this kind of thing keeps happening. How guns and mental health and violence pervade the profiles of these cowardly shooters. And how thus far the American government has been literally held hostage by an Amendment and a Lobby that don't serve us in their current form. Perhaps this incident will turn the tide and maybe there will be a chance for policy change and attention to issues otherwise ignored. But I have very little ability to affect that.
There is so much that goes into making the powder keg of a troubled mind capable of inflicting such pain, suffering and death. In the early hours when this story was unfolding, I began to read the comments section on the Seattle Times article about the shooting. Usually the forum devolves into bile-fueled, shouting matches. But one comment stood out to me and profoundly resonated. It was submitted by "SeamusSmith":
Americans are losing all sense of compassion, of empathy, of community, of being One Nation, of being kind for kindness sake and good for goodness sake and loving for loving sake. Stop. Just stop and think about what kind of world we are handing off to the children who survived this hideous act of a madman.
Think and resolve to do better. To make more eye contact. To say "hello" to people who seem isolated and distraught. To listen more. To be more kind. To be helpful to those who are floundering. To bark less and wag more.
Swear it on the bodies of these American children, these innocent, lost members of our human race: I will be more compassionate for the rest of my time on earth.
In the end, only kindness matters.
Especially in Seattle where we are known for standoffish behavior, I know he is right. I do this. I am suspicious of all people until they prove me wrong and am less friendly than I could be. And yet I see how this way of being is not helpful to the greater good. Amplified and replicated it is not protective but isolating and when people are truly isolated they lose a part of their humanity. So as Seamus (or whatever his real name is) pledges to be more compassionate, I will too. If nothing else but to repair and strengthen the connection to and faith in fellow humans. Of course this will not undo what has happened and it may seem small. But otherwise there is just sadness and fury.