If you’ve been anywhere near a media outlet recently, I’m sure you’ve heard that there was a school shooting in Marysville north of Seattle this morning. Two kids will never hug their parents again, several more are gravely wounded in the hospital.
There’s no parent who hears that kind of news and doesn’t immediately ache for those parents who have to endure the loss of their children. All parents live every day knowing that a part of their heart is walking around out there somewhere, climbing too high on monkey bars or riding their bikes off the sidewalk. To be a parent is to love courageously, because having children makes you vulnerable. You want to make their worlds safe for them, but the older your kids get, the more you realize that the world is not a safe place. Not for them, not for anybody.
It’s full of wonderful things and dangerous things, wonderful and dangerous people, and every imaginable combination in between. Every parent knows this, and yet we still bundle our children off to school every morning anyway and hope for nothing more than to have the people in their lives confirm our suspicion about the best in people.
I think in a situation like this one, where the tragedy has struck so close to home and is yet one more heartbreak in the wake of too, too many others, the temptation is to get angry. Anger is powerful, it feels so much better than sorrow. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I spent most of my teenage years feeling angry, because when you’re vulnerable and hurt, anger at least makes you feel somewhat powerful again.
Angry people, who have seen too many crying children and sobbing parents on news broadcasts that delight in monetizing suffering, cry out for a solution. They want someone to do something, to stem the tide of this anger that seems, so perplexingly, to be directed at children who should never have to know that kind of fear.
If I can, in my small, quiet corner of the Internet, speak any truth into the void, it would be that the most powerful thing any of us can ever do is to treat other people with kindness. I know this seems weak. What can kindness do against a handgun? But tragedies like these are never just one big boulder rolling down a mountain. They’re avalanches, where the weight of too many disappointments and hurts builds on itself until the momentum is too great and something integral is lost.
I have no idea who the shooter was, and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know a single thing about that person. Instead, I want to treat every person I cross paths with as though that person is one bad day away from losing hope. I want to be kind, I want to be helpful. I want to reach out and show that person that despite what the news would have all of us believe, there is good in people and safety if you know where to look.
You can’t affect what others do. You can’t change someone’s mind and you can’t make someone do what you would do. But, you can be nice. You can be generous. You can be the one good example in ten bad ones in a person’s life.
That’s all you can do. That’s all any of us can do. Arguing about gun control or mental health procedures is all beside the point, because the point is, life is precious but some people have lost sight of that. To the detriment of all, I think.
So, to echo my friend Summer, “Hug your children today. Tell them how much you love them. Hug them with all your might. And pray for those who can’t hug theirs again.”
Go be kind. Be a good example. That’s all we can do. That, and hope that it’s enough.