Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Grown-Up Christmas Wish...In Memory of The Kids

I've thought of so many ways to begin this post because there are so many thoughts I want to tie together.  In the immortal words of Julie Andrews, let's start at the very beginning.  We all know it's been a little over 48 hours since we heard the sickening (literally) news of the senseless killings of innocents in Norwalk, CT.  The eldest of these was 56 years old, the majority, students, 6-and 7-year olds.  I must confess, as I read the story this morning to verify these numbers, I find it difficult to read as my eyes welled with tears yet again.  I don't mean to dwell on it or tear back the scab that is beginning to form as we heal, however we must.  We must not forget these children and educators, for if we do, we ourselves become numb to the gravity of the situation.  Make no mistake - this is a grave situation.  Make no mistake here, either - I am not talking about gun control, mental illness, the safety of our schools.  No, I am talking in broader strokes about our inhumanity toward each other as people.  By the way, my 'Wish' I mentioned is at the end of the post.  It's in the form of a challenge and I think you'll understand.

Fortunately, a friend posted something on Facebook that gave me the inspiration for this entry.  They simply said that they had been a recipient of a random act of kindness.  Someone in a Starbucks drive-thru, a man in the car just ahead of her's, paid for her coffee and bought her a cookie.  He then drove off.  Purely random, incredible, unsolicited kindness.  Sadly, we look at actions such as this as extraordinary.  I think that, in itself, shows where we are headed as a society.  It cost him little, yet made a huge impact.  It needs to happen more frequently.

 As I sat here this morning drinking my coffee, I watched commercials on television and thought about the shopping yet to be done.  Then, almost as quickly, the images and stories came flooding back.  Yes, many of us are sitting here with family today, yet there are 26 people whose funerals are being planned.  The majority of these are children.  That is simply not natural and something no parent should have to endure.  I imagine many of our own children were squeezed, kissed, hugged, and cried over in the past 48 hours than they had been in the past 48 days.  We need to do that more frequently, too.  I refuse to mention the name of the perpetrator of these acts.  If the national media wants to impress me, I will gladly sit and listen about each and every child that was killed.  If you want to give me a story, tell of the heroics of 27-year old Victoria Soto, one of the teachers, who died protecting her students.  Tell me about the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, who died as she tried to stop the gunman.  I do not care why he did it, nor do I care to hear anything more of him.  Let the specialists figure out those facts, but for God's sake, stop making these people household names.  You're giving them what they wanted.  Stop it.  Now.

I used to be concerned, in my younger years, about what people would think if I said or did certain things or acted a certain way.  What I mean by that is, many of us (especially of the male gender) have been conditioned to tell our spouses and our families we love them.  It is noticeably rare that you hear two heterosexual males say, "I love you," to a friend.  Oh, how we've conditioned ourselves.  At this point, I have to interject that I have always been surprised and proud of how my son has handled this.  It's never fazed him.  When I was younger, I (like many of us, I think) hated my parents being around for fear they would embarrass me in front of my friends.  He, however, has never hesitated to tell his mother, father, and friends he loves them, even when he was in school.  Of course, he was the starting center on the football team.  Me, not so much.  No one was going to make fun of him.  Still, I have come to realize that what happened Friday could happen to any of us at any time.  Do you really want to be the one that left something unsaid to those that matter?  As I said, those were in my younger years.  I will gladly tell those that matter, especially as they have been in my life for many years, that they matter and I love them.  What's that?  You say you can't say it to another male friend?  Get over yourself - they matter, let them know how much.

Eldridge Cleaver once said, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."  Edmund Burke also said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  I choose think we, as a whole, are good.  I also think we need to do something.  Again, we'll have the gun control, mental health, safety conversations, trust me.  We all know they will come as they always do.  That brings to mind another famous quote by Albert Einstein, who said, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."  We've continued to do the same things, repeatedly, and we've see the same result.  Am I the only one that thinks we might need to attack the problem from another angle?  Am I the only person that shakes their head when we hear these stories, thinks that we really need to address the problem, yet assumes someone else will take care of it?  Many of us do the same thing as we are too engrossed in our daily lives to try to make a real difference.  Knowing the demands placed on our time, as well as realizing our current efforts are not enough, we've got to find something...anything...that will allow us to affect change while not taxing our already-stressed schedules.  Therein lies the impetus for my wish.

Many of you are friends on Facebook.  I have to admit, there are many 'stories' and posts on that site that say, "Click if you hate cancer, scroll if you don't."  Please, people - we all hate cancer.  It's ridiculous.  "Click if you support our troops, scroll if they mean nothing to you."  "Click if you believe in God, keep scrolling if you don't."  I see many of these posts and, while we may or may not 'click', I'm going to challenge you to do something that will, hopefully, go viral and make a difference.  Here it is:

My Grown-Up Christmas wish if for people to remember this quote - "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.  You know why?  It's the only thing that ever has."  We seek change, yet know not how to go about it.  I'd like to see people share this with as many others as possible, then commit to a single random act of kindness.  To do this, daily, would make a huge impact, don't you think?  I can do it, my daughter or son can do it, my family can do it...and we will see a little change.  Think, though, of the amazing impact we can have if just the people reading this would do it.  How much time, and at what cost, did it take for someone to simply buy a cup of coffee for someone else?  We can all 'pay it forward' and we owe it to ourselves and, more importantly, our children to make the commitment.

There it is - my Christmas wish.  If no more children are lost due to senseless, depraved acts of violence, we win.  If teachers can go into a classroom and educate our children without having to shield them from harm, we win.  If we all get to the point where we actually show love, caring, kindness, and consideration to win.  Big.  We don't know how many Christmases we have left in our lives - none of us does - and this might be the solution that we haven't tried yet.  What we've been doing isn't working.  Don't we owe it to ourselves to at least try?  Thank you for taking the time to read and share this.  Thank you for doing something nice for someone you don't know.  Most importantly, thank you for beings friends.  Merry Christmas to all...and God bless us every one.

Until next time................

Friday, December 14, 2012

Typing Through Tears

It's been quite a while since I posted anything here which seems to be my new M.O.  There are those times, however, that make me decide I have to vent and let my feelings out if even to be put into words appearing on a screen.  Whether others read it or not, it helps me to say what I am feeling so I can come to terms with the incredible emotions being felt.  Today, of course, is one of those times.

The day started as any other Friday at work, my first call coming in from a co-worker who, somewhere during the initial part of the call, was perusing the online news feed of his computer.  "Oh, great.  Another school shooting.  Somewhere in CT.  Great way to start a Friday."  He was, of course, being very sarcastic.  We were sharing our thoughts at the unbelievable nature of these situations only briefly before moving on to the subject of work.  After a few minutes we ended the call and I began searching the web for information I needed.  When I brought up my homepage, it was then I saw the depth of the situation.  The reports at that time had 26 people dead - 18 students and 8 adults.  I was sure this was another high school shooting until.....I saw the photos.  Photos of children being led by policewomen in blue windbreakers and holding radios guiding a line of children that appeared to be in elementary school.  If the caption hadn't existed, this might have even looked like a line of children heading to a bus for a field trip.  Instead, it was a class being taken to safety, guided by these women.  These were...children!  I know that teenagers are children, too, though in these times that is easy to forget.  These children, though, are 10 years old and under.  Kindergarten through 4th grade.  How was this possible?

We know now that there are 20 children dead.  We also know there are 6 adults dead.  I say children, though we might as easily use the term babies.  I have a 16-year old daughter who, as any father will attest, will always be my baby.  The difference, however, is that she has seen things that taught her there is evil in the world.  She knows how to be 'streetwise' and aware of her surroundings.  These babies have not seen those things, nor do they understand the true concept of evil.  At least they hadn't known it until today.  As I turned on the television, my thoughts went immediately to my 5-year old granddaughter.  She spent the night with us the other evening and, best of all, wanted to bake cookies with me.  She fell asleep in front of the television and, after carrying her to bed, I tucked her in safe and sound.  In the morning, I got to relive times I had spent with my daughter when she was that age.  I gently woke her, helped her get dressed and brushed her teeth before whisking her away to daycare.  She talked the entire time we drove to school and I soaked in the memories like a sponge.  I was transported back to a magical time about 12 years ago that I had, to some degree, forgotten.  Today, though, I watched the television and openly wept.  I felt the tears run down my cheek as I said out loud, "These were just defenseless children, you bastard!"  I thought of friends and family that have young children and how none of us are ever prepared for the loss of a child in any fashion, much less at the hands of a sick, demented, twisted individual that did this for a reason no one can understand, nor one that can, in any way, be justified.

These were children whose main concern was what would be under their Christmas trees in 10 days.  They were thinking about what they'd tell Santa when he asked if they were good little boys and girls and what they wanted for Christmas.  They were thinking about the fun they'd have over their Christmas break.  They were, most likely, thinking about this being the most incredible time of the year.    Christmas, from this point forward, will be forever darkened for the families of the children that were in that school today.  This will forever be an anniversary of this tragedy and will take more than a little time to heal.  We will all, for some time to come, remember this as we did Columbine.

We'll spend the next few days analyzing and listening to details of why he did it, what he was thinking. We won't really care, though.  Babies have died needlessly.  We will talk about gun control and mental illness.  We will propose and pass legislation.  We will hear it on talk radio shows and national television.  We will discuss it at length and, in the end, it will happen again.  We will hear this news over and over again because we are drifting as a society, our moral compasses helplessly spinning.  I don't profess to have the answer, though I know it is not a gun control issue that requires more worthless legislation.  Every time we pass a new law, there are so many loopholes that we could drive a truck through them.  There are certain guns on the market that are not needed for self-defense.  This isn't the day for that conversation, though.  Today's conversation is how do we help, even in a small way, these families heal?

I am, and always will be, a fan of the television show, "The West Wing."  I have always thought the writing to be insightful and moving, while at times providing incredible quotes that fit our times and situations.  One such quote that I think describes how I feel tonight is this:

"All I know for sure, all I know for certain, is that they weren't born wanting to do this. There's evil in the world, there'll always be, and we can't do anything about that. But there's violence in our schools, too much mayhem in our culture, and we can do something about that. There's not enough character, discipline, and depth in our classrooms; there aren't enough teachers in our classrooms. There isn't nearly enough, not nearly enough, not nearly enough money in our classrooms, and we can do something about that. We're not doing nearly enough, not nearly enough to teach our children well, and we can do better, and we must do better, and we will do better, and we will start this moment today! They weren't born wanting to do this."

Mark my words, and I have heard it from others being interviewed today, this will happen again.  We need to stop asking why and become parents again.  I have asked over the past several years when we stopped being able to discipline our children.  I remember that spankings were thought to be detrimental to the child and that parents, if allowed to continue this practice, would far too easily abuse the child.  I'd like to go on record as saying it has gotten out of control.  I have seen children speak to their elders in a way that would have gotten me a quick meeting with my father's belt or hand.  I would have experienced punishment (and did) that made me learn my lesson which, truth be told, was needed.  We need to teach right from wrong and, though I am not an advocate of spanking and used it as an example, need to discipline our youth.  Would that have saved these children?  I don't know.  No one does.  I can say, though, that without discipline we are headed far off the course that needed to be set.  Making sure we discipline our children is a responsibility and not doing so is detrimental to not just them, but society as a whole.  Ask any of the parents of the children that died today.  Now, here I am ranting about child discipline, not knowing if it was a factor or not.  I can only assume, based on the previous situations we've seen, that it was.  Parents, too consumed with giving their children everything they ask for, have forgotten to give them the things they are truly in need of - our time and our love.

In another line stolen from the series, I'll paraphrase when I say, the streets of heaven are filled with too many angels tonight.  They are angles that should not be there but, rather, here waiting for that special day, Christmas.  They should be here, their nights filled with the anticipation of this holiday.  They should be snuggled in their beds counting down the days until that night, only 10 days from now, when they would pull the covers around them, fight sleep as long as they could, then drifted off only to awaken and run downstairs to see that the magic really exists.  These were babies and we cannot imagine, even as adults, the unspeakable hell they went through today.  Their friends and teachers that were fortunate enough to survive will never forget this day and will carry this with them forever.  We can only hope that they will honor their classmates' memories by learning respect and discipline.  We can only hope they will hold their own children close, later in life, and let them know they are loved every minute of every day.

I have ranted more than usual, written more than I should, and gone off on too many tangents.  Regardless, I feel a little better and my tears have dried for now.  I hope we all, from this point forward, do our parts to help each other do what we can to stop this madness.  We owe it to each other, if only through random acts of kindness that we commit as often as possible.

Until next time.............