If you can read this then I’m presuming the world didn’t end on Dec. 21 and I didn’t waste my time paying the cable bill in advance.
I’m hoping we all had a blessed and lovely Christmas or appropriate holiday of your choosing. Me, I love the entire season of Thanksgiving through Christmas.
I’m sorry to say that New Year’s Eve is just a sad also-ran holiday to me. No one I know even gets all that excited about it until Dec. 26 when champagne and cheese platters become momentarily fascinating.
The feeling passes quickly. End. Still, I think most anyone with a heart and soul can agree that the joy has been sucked out of us all this year. I feel in some ways like the world as we know it ended one week ahead of schedule: On Dec. 14 in a bullet-riddled elementary school in Connecticut.
I can say a prayer. I can change the channel. I can commit to 26 acts of kindness. I can’t, however, seem to get it out of my mind. I picked up my teenage son after school last week and looking at our sweet, somewhat homely brick school, so much like the one in Connecticut (the post-baby boom being a popular time to construct low-slung little brick schools) I choked up right there in the front seat of my car.
We are a small rural community. We do not have one “town center.” The school, in a very real sense, IS our town center. The building and the people contained within it are a second home and family to our kids.
To say that our schools are the heart of our community is not just a figure of speech. It’s trite, it’s small-town, and it is true. Even after Columbine I didn’t feel THIS vulnerable. The buzzers and the cameras provided a (false) sense of security. Experts today try and make us feel better.
However, reading that our children are statistically safer in a classroom than riding in a car was cold comfort to me. While we have all, sadly, had to accept that riding in a car is inherently risky, I think — hope — that we have not yet reached a point where we accept that there is a smaller, but still inherent risk to 6-year-olds at circle time.
We are comparing apples-for-the-teacher to oranges and that breaks my heart.
If you are a parent you know the many little things that make up a school child’s arsenal. Glue sticks, crayons, a juice box for snack. I actually had the strangest thought, out on the blue: lunch bins.
I actually thought of 20 families who will probably at some point have returned to them the lunch box that their child took — but never returned with — from school. I cried over that. Again.
All of the Sandy Hook victims of any age were innocent and precious but it is the little ones — and little things — that break me down. I am not going to do this story justice but my 13-year-old told me of her big gruff male teacher who reassured the children on the first day back to school after the Newtown Massacre with, “I want you guys to know you are safe here. I will without hesitation jump in front of anyone who tries to hurt you.”
She said the girls in class were teary in gratitude and “some of the boys looked pretty sad too.” I’m grateful for that kind of dedication. I believe in it. I am also aware that it is a whole new world when “we’re going to learn so much!” as an inspirational speech has been replaced by “I would take a bullet for you.”
Do-over. The world did not end Dec. 14 but it certainly cracked for many of us. There is a “before” and there is an “after.” There are days we wish fervently that we could return to. Like children, we want a do-over. I think most agree that these include April 19, 1999, Sept. 10, 2001 and Dec. 13, 2012.
We think we would do something differently. We swear that we could — and would — stop this. Let’s ask ourselves today before the next “do-over” date what it is, exactly, a do-better would be?
Hope you had yourself a merry little Christmas and we are now ready to get down to the business of the new year. Along with the resolution to be a better person, to be kinder, gentler, thinner, richer or any of the resolutions we tend to make this time of year, let’s move toward a bigger one.
Gifted poet Maya Angelou has written, “When you know better you do better.” Let’s all work together to make this the year that we finally do.