Today, with my sister’s family, our home became a construction zone of gingerbread houses. Every year I swear I’m not going to be a purist and make every house from scratch, yet every year I find myself turning down the premade kits who whisper to me from the aisles of Michaels how simple and quick they would be compared to the labors of DIY. The kids certainly don’t give a flying flip which I choose. At the end of the day, all that matters to them is that they share a day of fun with their cousins and eating their weight in candy. When they become adults, they probably won’t remember more than a handful of Santa’s gifts, but the gingerbread house parties, I believe they’ll remember with fond nostalgia.
A few days after the Newtown shootings, I learned that Olivia Engel, one of the children murdered, was going to decorate a gingerbread house after school. I haven’t been able to shake that thought all week. A lifetime of simple joys senselessly snatched away in an instant. I have read about every single one of the victims, finding myself in fits of rage and sorrow, intermingled with countless tears and even nightmares. It is impossible to comprehend the grief of the parents, unless of course you have a lost a child yourself to a mentally ill young man who enters a classroom with multiple guns and fills your petrified child’s body with ferocious sprays of ammunition. As a I spoke with a wise friend in depth about it all this week, we both agreed that it’s a loss you simply do not recover from, ever. We say we can’t imagine and we simply can’t. Neither can they.
When I told Larry we were attending a local church service on Christmas Eve, I received a sideways glance of disbelief and questioning. No doubt he was wondering why I would want to attend a service that celebrates a pivotal Christian belief. I couldn’t find the words that night to tell him that I don’t feel the need to believe that Jesus was the son of God to recognize that he was a radical vision of love, hope, and compassion, and that in itself is worth celebrating, especially right now. If he was truly the Messiah is irrelevant to me–if he lived his life as described in scripture, we have a tremendous reference manual for how to conduct ourselves. I have often wondered how Jesus would respond if CNN put a mic up to him and questioned where we are going wrong and how we should change, and more importantly if we would be selfless enough to actually make the changes he would recommend.
I am sorely disappointed in myself as much as I am this country as a collective whole. Why did it take the mass murder of 1st graders (and let’s not forget the brave staff and teachers) to really wake our country up to this epidemic? And did it even wake us up and out of the bed into action versus bolting upright from a horrific nightmare, only to lie down again and fall back asleep, thankful it wasn’t our own reality? I want to have faith that the governing forces of our country will tackle this problem with as much focus as they give our country’s borders and the “fiscal cliff”, but I’m pessimistic (and maybe even realistic) that it will eventually fade in the background of the issues that will glean more votes come election time.
I believe as a US citizen and human being, it is up to me. The friend I mentioned above believes it will take a change as monumental as our country’s civil rights movement for things to budge. Yet I feel this will be more dynamic than that movement–it is not as black and white (no pun intended). If you put one hundred people in a room, you would get one hundred different answers as to the major cause or causes of these tragedies. How do you even begin to fight the fight when you don’t even agree on what it is you’re fighting? I am not posing this as a hypothetical question but as a plea for people who are more intelligent and innovative than myself to help guide me. So those of you out there who read this blog, please chime in. What do you know? What are you already doing that I should be doing? Where should I focus my efforts that will make the most difference?