Yesterday I made cookies, wearing my apron and bunny slippers, and shuffled around the kitchen listening to a Celtic Christmas station on Spotify. The oven was keeping my toes warm, my kids were merrily sneaking melty chocolate chip cookies from the counter where they cooled, and my husband and friends were gathering downstairs to play tabletop games.
Things were going pretty well -I got the kitchen clean, scrubbed my stove top until it was white again, and even got most of the dishes loaded into the dishwasher and started. As I stood at my kitchen counter scooping hot cookies off of the baking sheets with a metal spatula, I felt for just a moment like all was right with my world. Then I thought about Newtown, CT.
It occurred to me that all the things that were bringing me such a deep and abiding sense of peace had been taken away from 20 sets of parents. Before I knew it, I was sobbing as I dropped hot cookies onto the aluminum-covered countertop. My heart breaks every time I think about those parents and where they are right now, and how they’re going to have to survive Christmas morning without their children. I keep imagining how it must feel to know that they will never again have the pleasure of watching their child open gifts, they won’t be awakened tomorrow morning by giddy smiles and enthusiastic 6-year-old chatter.
My own sons were running through the house, screeching at each other as they played whatever imaginative game they had created for that moment in time and they didn’t notice me hunched over the counter -suddenly deflated. Every moment of the holiday celebrations is precious to me now. On the other hand, every person that points a finger at someone else for not being compassionate enough, or who makes a smart-ass comment about someone else’s interpretation of this tragedy becomes another source of my sadness. It is natural for all of us to suggest that we should do something to stop these things from happening ever, ever again. Whether or not you agree that guns are the issue, or mental health, or both -you have the privilege of ignorance to motivate your online debating. You aren’t suffering as a direct result of this event like those parents.
As a parent, I break a little further apart every time I think about what I would be doing right now in the place of the parents of Newtown, CT. If either one of my children had been slaughtered by an anonymous young man with a gun -in their own classrooms- I can’t say that I would be able to muster the courage to get out of bed in the morning or keep breathing in and out every day.
My thoughts and prayers are with those parents, and I hope that every person around them is keeping a close watch on them in the next 72 hours. Next time you want to go on a tirade on some social network about how anyone who disagrees with you is politicizing the issue, take a moment and imagine Christmas morning in one of those 20 houses that will not be filled with the excitement of a 6 year old discovering their gifts under the tree or snuggling into their parents’ loving embraces. Think about those empty arms and the pain that those parents must be going through. They need your prayers now more than ever -and debating the same tired old political arguments isn’t doing them a speck of good. Something precious has been taken from them forever, and personally -I don’t think there is any worse pain in this world than what they are going through.
I don’t know what, if anything, can do them any good -but I know that compassion is the true meaning of Christ, of Christmas and of the winter celebrations of just about every major religion that has ever been practiced. The nights are long, the living things are all at the threshold of the afterlife, and the compassion of our fellow human beings is one of the few things that can keep the darkness at bay. Whatever God or Goddess you pray to -please say a prayer tonight for Newtown. They need compassion right now -not a database, a defensive argument or a debate.