This post is dedicated to the students and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary.
I was at home on Friday when I saw the first reports of the Newtown, CT shooting. At that point in time, I had no idea that people had actually died, figured that the shooter had been apprehended and that the whole thing had amounted to a few injuries of faculty members. Never could I fathom that this sad, sick person had pulled a gun on 20 children and 6 faculty members and took them from this world. And I have struggled with that notion over the weekend…it just doesn’t seem fathomable that anyone, even a mentally ill person would ever get the inclination to do such a thing. My mind just went for the “safe route.” It took a while for the news to sink in. But once it did, I was crying for children and adults I never met. As the story sorted itself out, the dedication of the teachers and staff to their kids truly touched my heart, especially the inspiring story of Victoria Soto who hid her students in the closet and threw the killer off before he shot her. I will never get to meet Vicki and tell her how brave she was; how even now, three days after this senseless act my eyes are still feeling the pressure of built-up tears; how much her students love her. Despite all this, she has definitely set an example for me.
The world is a scary place, and always has been. I am not really sure I could put myself unarmed in front of a gunman and take the consequences, whatever they may be…unless it meant saving a loved one. Vicki taught us all something very raw, innate, and beautiful: love is an instinct, just as fear, anger, and survival are. There is no way to learn this kind of love. You don’t think about it. You just do.
I think that we forget that instinctual capacity to love, especially during times of stress. Even now, I am watching my Facebook feed fill up with arguments over gun control and mental illness and what we as a country should do about these issues. It’s so easy to take your focus off the true “moral” of the story, and even I must admit got caught up in the debate. But when tragedy like this strikes, aside from trying to make sense of it, we should really reflect on the true meaning behind this story. It’s not about the killer and whether or not certain precautions need to be taken so this never happens; it’s something that needs to be discussed, yes, but it is not what we need to take away from this. During this time of confusion, one thing should be certain: love should be such a part of our identities that responding with understanding, compassion, and selflessness overrides our base need to criticize, lash out, and turn against one another.
In light of this tragedy, when we realize that truly nothing is guaranteed in life, shouldn’t we will ourselves to love instinctually? That unbearable, natural need to race home and cling to your family and tell them that they are loved that we experienced as a nation on Friday; shouldn’t that be more present in the day-to-day? Shouldn’t that feeling of “this problem seems so insignificant compared to what just happened, I will react with understanding” follow us on more days than just the day of an earth-shattering event? We were designed to love as if it were as natural as breathing, that was proved on Friday by the students and faculty who lost their lives on Friday. We just sometimes lose sight of our true selves along the way.
Ask yourself each day: What can I do today to show love? Will it be simply rolling over in bed every morning, kissing your spouse or signficant other, and letting them they know they are loved? Will it be taking a step back during an argument and listening? Will it be helping out a total stranger who others turn their back on? As we strengthen the instinct, the affect we have on others will hopefully spread.
I am starting off my day with hugging my mom before we get to work. Just this simple act will hopefully spawn a sequence of loving events.
What are you going to do today?