I had been out grocery shopping - buying ingredients for the cookie-baking extravaganza that I do each year. This is an errand I dread every year - grumpy people at grocery stores, ladies grabbing the last ingredients right out from under my hand, men driving carelessly through the parking lots splashing snow on innocent passersby, and children screaming for every sugared item they reach for... But this year was different. I don't know what was special about that morning, but people were smiling, holding doors open for each other, helping to reach for items that were too high, wishing each other a "Merry Christmas!" I was all smiles, full of the Christmas spirit, and looking forward to an afternoon of baking and listening to Christmas music!
I got home, realizing I could actually catch the one soap opera I watch (yes, I too have a guilty pleasure!), and turned on the TV. The first thing I saw was, "Special Report" and I almost turned it off again. I didn't care to hear any more politicking this close to Christmas. But then I saw the word "shooting" and was disappointed in myself when, at first, I didn't flinch. The Oregon Mall shooting was last week... It's become so common, I almost didn't even look to see where it happened... But then I heard "school" and "children dead."
I stopped putting away groceries and turned my attention to the TV. Twenty children dead, 6 adults. I literally fell to the floor and cried. And couldn't stop. Mike came home early from work that day to surprise me - ready to help with cookies and cleaning and preparing dinner for a guest... And he found me crying the "ugly cry" in our kitchen. He hadn't seen the news yet, so I filled him in. We hugged and cried, heartbroken at the horrible evil that took place that morning.
I will always remember where I was at that moment.
The question is, how will I go forward, doing what I can to help this never to happen again? Will I become an activist for gun control? for a better mental health system? for teachers to carry guns? All of these things have been focused on in our media as ways to "fix the problem." But I think there is no easy fix - this is so much bigger than one "issue."
Instead, I will focus on my faith. I will focus on the two greatest commandments that were ever given: Love God. Love each other.
I will be even kinder to those I meet. I will look for more ways to serve and bring joy to others. I will practice more random acts of kindness and smile at more strangers. I will try to understand where my "enemies" are coming from - and see the good in their lives, even when it's difficult. I will love even the hardest to love.
In these last few days leading up to Christmas, and in the coming New Year, I invite all of us to take a look at our life. Be thankful for the blessings we have - homes, families, transportation, jobs, clothes, food on the table... And so much more. What can we do to share these blessings with those around us? To bless the lives of others? To bring joy and love and kindness to a world that is hurting so very badly...?
Talk to your kids - about the blessings they have in their lives and ways to give thanks by serving others. Do some things as a family to share love and kindness with neighbors and beyond. (Get the kids away from video games and movies - long enough to realize there are real people out there who could use a smile and a conversation!)
As families, as groups of friends, as couples, and individuals - what can we do to help heal a broken world? What can we do to honor those twenty small children's deaths - to make the world a better place in their memories?
Ann Curry is suggesting 26 acts of kindness for each person killed in the tragedy. I'm ready to start - how about you?
Things I am thankful for today:
1. Fresh snow...
2. Warm tea.
3. A kind husband.
4. A cuddly dog.
6. Facebook posts that bring smiles.
7. My nephew, Zion.
8. Christmas cards.
9. Parents with amazing kids.