I do not believe that there is a single American who was not affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. We don't need professionals to tell us the shooter was mentally disturbed. Anyone with a conscience can tell you that. We don't need the media to tell us that it was a horrific tragedy. Anyone with a heart can tell you that. We don't need correspondents or spokespersons to tell us the victims were too young to die. Anyone with a soul can tell you that.
What most of us want to know is the answer to the age-old question of Why. But we may never know why. We may never understand the darkest regions of a mind so obviously filled with anger, hate, selfishness, and rage. We may never understand because we have something - whether faith, hope, or love - that prevents us from being able to think in such a way.
We are powerless to change the events of the past. But we do have the power to change ourselves.
Life is full of decisions. As my hubby says, "You decide what attitude you wake up with." And as a parent of a young child, I can decide to allow fear to take over, or I can resolve to take over the fear.
So here are the decisions I am making in the wake of tragedy:
I will not allow fear to control my life. There were a lot of fearful parents sending their kids to school today. Parents who would rather keep their kids at home and hug them all day long. Yes, I fear for my child's safety at school, but I also know that tragedy can strike anywhere. Our car ride to school is more dangerous than his sitting in the classroom. He could be taken from me by an accident, a drowning, or disease. I cannot possibly protect him from every possible tragedy. I'm not saying I will not have fear. I'm only saying that I will not allow the fear to take over.
I will not allow myself to make knee-jerk reactions about my child's education. I wouldn't be surprised to see an increase in homeschooling after this, but I am keeping my child where he's at. I'm not against homeschooling - for some families, it is absolutely the best choice for their child. There are families who excel at homeschooling, and there are others who are not successful with it. Be honest with yourself before making that decision. Don't base it on fear.
I will allow myself to grieve. I do not know any of the families personally, but that doesn't mean I don't feel grief over what happened. Those children were filled with potential. Who knows what they could have become or what great things they would have accomplished. Those teachers were heroic. The world needs more people like that. It's a loss that deserves to be mourned by all.
I will not allow fear to hover over my child. Children have enough fear in life, real and unreal. They don't need more. My kid doesn't need to know what happened. He doesn't need to worry about his safety at school. It's someone else's job to worry about that. And he doesn't need to pick up on my fear. Kids are good at sensing those things.
I will allow myself to enjoy every day with my child. Unfortunately, there are many parents who are not allowed that luxury today. Each day I have with my son - even if that day is filled with frustrating moments - is precious.
I will not allow what happened to push me to religious intolerance. Religion? you ask. But this wasn't a religiously motivated massacre. That's right. As far as we know, it wasn't. But because it happened at a public school, there are many well-intending Christians getting up on their soap boxes and shouting that you shouldn't ask "Where was God?" because we threw Him out of school. This angers me.
God is not bound by our rules. Jesus was a rule breaker. God will continue to be in schools as long as He is in the hearts and minds of the children and adults there. You cannot check your beliefs at the door. (Just as you cannot expect God to show up simply because a building has the word "Church" on the door.)
I will allow myself to ask God the hard questions. There is nothing wrong with airing your opinions/grievances to God. He already knows them. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to take our worries and fears to Him. Sometimes that means crying on our knees and sometimes that means shaking our fists in the air. He's been there. He knows our frustrations and anger. You won't surprise Him, I promise.
I will not blame God for what happened. Jesus told us "Sh*t happens." Seriously. That's my own paraphrase of John 16:33, when He said, "You will have suffering in this world." Plus, the Bible tells us that Satan is the one who causes crap to happen, not God (1 John 5:19). Stop pointing fingers. We see the tragedies that happen, but never know how many others were prevented.
I will not allow myself to use what happened to promote political propaganda. This is a tragedy, not a bargaining chip. These were lives, not political pawns. Whatever I believe about the 2nd amendment, religion in schools, mental health care, or other aspects, they need to be dealt with clear minds. Now is a time to mourn. It will be time to talk when we are level-headed.
I will allow myself to reevaluate my political stances. Any time something horrific happens, we need to reevaluate where we are headed. That's true whether it is something small and personal or something large and public. No matter what stance you have taken in the past, whether left or right, you need to be willing to see if there is a way to work together for the sake of a common goal.
I will allow myself to remain emotionally vulnerable. My instinct tells me to separate myself and not think about the things that break my heart. But shutting of those emotions would deny myself my own humanity. Pain and confusion are part of the human experience just as much as love and hope are. Building a wall around my heart to keep it from getting hurt, will also keep it from caring. And that is NOT what we need. We need to connect with each other. We need to care more... not less.
The holiday season is about faith, hope, and love. It's a time when we're reminded to think more about others and less about ourselves. It's a time when we reflect on peace and goodwill. It shouldn't take a tragedy to remind us that we are all human beings living in this world together.