There’s a lot of things I need to explain or catch my ten readers up on. Today is not that day. I apologize for not posting and I’ll fill you in on some of it another time.
Obviously, the event on everyone’s mind is the horrible mass shooting that happened in Newton, CT on Friday. Watching the horrific images on TV. Hearing news that just got worse and worse. Parents thinking about if it was their own children it had happened to. Seeing Facebook post after post and tweet after tweet – all of us in shock. I know the world probably doesn’t need another “Live in the moment” blog post but I needed it.
The question I kept hearing over and over again and that I’m still hearing today is how do you explain this type of thing? How does one process this evil act?
The answer is you don’t. This horrible tragedy can’t be understood by any decent human being. Sure, investigators will figure out the logistics of how it all happened. Mental health professionals will study this event and compare it to others in the hope that we might keep it from happening again. Talking heads will talk. Religious leaders will give explanations – some that are helpful and some that are meant to make their followers feel better than others. Politicians will react by giving speeches, searching for scapegoats and introducing legislation – some of these politicians will even be sincere.
But we can’t answer the question of how this could happen when it’s so fresh and new. And I kept seeing friends and acquaintances on Facebook and Twitter asking why this happened over and over again. It was such a collective outpouring of grief and while I understood why we were immersing ourselves in it, I also knew it wasn’t good for any of us.
I’ve been there. I’ve immersed myself in a tragedy whether by TV or social media. I saw others doing this and I saw them sinking because they couldn’t come up with any answers and they desperately wanted them. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to get yourself sucked into a vortex of misery. I know how damaging it was to my mental health and spirit. So I made a post on Facebook.
Let me make it clear that I know this was not some brave gesture or that it would end the fretting because I was so all-knowing. I explained there was absolutely nothing we could do to bring those kids back. There was no way to help the parents through this loss. The only thing we could do at that moment was to hold the kids, teachers, parents and first responders in our hearts (and do this for anyone who’s suffered a loss) and if they felt so inclined, to pray for them.
They needed to do that and then focus on their own lives. They needed to live in the moment that had been granted to them. They needed to hug the people they cared about and tell them that they loved them. They needed to find some way to show love and care to someone who might be hurting. They needed to bake cookies and snuggle in with their families to watch a favorite movie. They needed to find a quiet place and read an uplifting book. They needed to go on a hike or go to a playground and see that beautiful scenery and happy yelling kids still existed. That calm and peace and joy – they haven’t left us – they are still there. I told them to unplug from the news. Turn off the TV. Stay away from Facebook and Twitter for a while and go out and live.
Constantly subjecting yourself to all the awfulness that’s being discussed on TV or in social media isn’t going to bring those kids back or help their parents get through this. It doesn’t make you a weak person to not constantly expose yourself to every moment of this tragedy. A loving & compassionate person can get overwhelmed by all this awfulness. There will be a time when you can advocate for whatever changes you think need to be made and that time needs to be soon. But the best thing they could do was to live in the moment they had and take care of themselves & the ones they loved.
And you know what I did? I actually took my advice. And I did it in such a Chicken Soup for the Soul kind of way that I found it a bit hilarious. After hugging all our friends at the farmers market, Marcus and I went caroling to shut-ins with people from our church. It was a bit terrifying because I have issues with singing in front of people (a story for another day). But I sucked it up and even busted out some harmonies on some songs. I immersed myself in Christmas spirit and let the sometimes cynical me throw out some holly and some jolly.
We sang to people that were obviously dying. We sang to a little old lady who demanded a group prayer before we left. We sang to the wrong house and freaked out its owner a little bit. We sang to the previous pastor of my church and kept singing when he demanded more. I knew none of the people we sang to. Since we’re new members, I’m still getting to know the people who go to this church. I had no idea that our choir director could play an accordion (and a glittery gold one at that). I sang until I was hoarse. I held back tears when I saw someone barely grasping onto their life and that moment. I hugged people I didn’t know and I got so much more out of caroling than I ever put in.
Yesterday, we went to church. Everyone hugged each other a little tighter. Everyone smiled a bit more at the rowdy little kids running around before the service started. When we had all found our seats and before the service started, our pastor got up and said he knew we all had the kids & parents & community of Newton on our minds. His voice shook and he wiped away tears as he told us that he would light the Christ candle to signify that Christ was among us there in that church and everywhere else, even when it seems like all is lost. He also lit the Christ candle in the middle of the advent wreath to signify that all of us there in that church were thinking about and praying for the kids, parents, teachers and first responders that probably felt like they could never be happy again. We held them in our hearts that they would find comfort, love, peace, calm and even joy. Yes, joy.
Because you know what the theme of last Sunday’s service was? Joy. Joy for God and His joy for us. Joy for the people in our lives. Joy for the blessings we have. And joy for having the ability to grab that moment and live in it.
We took joy in singing. We took joy for that week of Advent. We took joy in knowing that Christmas, signifying the birth of Christ, would be there soon.
We heard a young man that had been able to learn to play the guitar and piano because of a wonderful program called the Joy of Music school. We took joy in the beautiful classical pieces he played on his guitar We took joy in the fact that he was moved by our enthusiastic response.
We took joy in the most delightful hot mess of a children’s Christmas pageant that I’ve ever had the privilege to see. The wrong music kept being played until the director finally yelled up the correct song to the sound guy. We took joy in the fact that a little girl who had burst into tears from stage fright at the very beginning was able to go back on stage, holding one of her mom’s hands and say her lines. We took joy in the fact that one little girl could never remember her lines, but as soon as the girl next to her whispered them to her, she spoke them with drama and gravity of Shakespeare. We took joy in the fact that the 3 to 4 year olds playing Mary and Joseph actually started an argument in the stable and there might have been some shoving involved. We took joy in the fact that one of the older girls, playing the part of an angel had to herd the shepherds back into the stable. We took joy in the fact that the little baby Jesus Mary carried got thrown back and forth and almost sat on at one point. We took joy in every song they sang, no matter how many notes got mangled. We all shook with repressed laughter in our seats and we all got tears in our eyes because we had the joy of those kids in that moment we were all living together. We took joy in the fact that as soon as it was over, we all stood up and gave them all a rousing standing ovation.
As we were leaving, Marcus and I took joy in the hugs we got and gave back. We took joy in the fact that we had found a church home – a church home that was an affirming, welcoming church where people of any sex, race, gender or sexual orientation were welcomed in and cared for. A church home that remembers its elderly members, even when they can’t get to church anymore. A church home that lets its members bring to their attention any concerns or joys that might be going on in our lives. A church home where I could get up and express my joy that my friends in Washington who had never had the option to get married, could do so now. I expressed my fervent wish that anyone, no matter what state they live in, who loves one another can participate in the civil act of marriage. A church home where many people hugged me after the service thanking me for getting up and saying that.
And then we drove home. It’s been a long, dark hard road for us lately. But we have friends who care about us and want to help us. We have caring neighbors that we know who care about our community. And my husband and I have one another and love each other even though we think we’re walking disasters sometimes. We took joy in all of that because we were blessed and able to have that moment and live in it. I hope with all of my heart that everyone affected by the events that took place in Newtown, CT will be able to find that joy again.
We’ve all got our moments in this life to live. We never know when that might end. So live the hell out of your life, have compassion for those who need it, and bring joy to your life and others.
Go hug someone you love.