Friday, December 14, 2012

Don't Be Numb

We all play many different roles in life. I consider myself a father, teacher, writer, husband, friend, brother, consumer, voter, and the list could go on. But the two roles that I think truly define me are "father" and "teacher." And today, both of those integral parts of my concept of self had their hearts broken.

As a father, the Sandy Hook tragedy points out an essential truth. Our children are the most important things in our lives. The idea that I could be standing in front of a class discussing Huck Finn one moment and receiving a call delivering the most devastating news imaginable the next makes me ill. What if? The question is numbing.

As a teacher, I can't help but think of my high school students, all of them I've had in the past six years, imagining them years ago on a playground at one of the district's elementary schools. There's that question again. What if? What if something like this had happened in our district. What if I'd never gotten the chance to meet, teach, and care for the amazing kids I work with every day. They've had such a profound effect on my life. That idea is quite numbing as well.

But don't let it numb you. Don't let it paralyze you. Yes, today hurts. Yes, we will cry when we look at the photos being posted across the internet of parents breaking down as they realize the fate of their precious angels. And yes we will feel varying degrees of hatred and anger for the man who caused all of this.

But don't be numb.

Feel it. Really let it affect you. It was numbness, dissociation, it was a paralysis of the heart that must have allowed this man to commit this act in the first place. It would take someone so numb that he could look a bunch of beautiful, sweet, and innocent little children in the face and then pull a trigger. So don't be numb. Feel every gut-wrenching moment of it. Those innocent cuties deserve that tribute.

And when you're feeling it, realize that we are going to feel this again. Again and again. What started long before Columbine and will, God help us, continue long after Sandy Hook, seems to be only increasing. It's a never-ending cycle of violence. With it, we feel hopeless. We feel lost. And most of all, we feel helpless.

But we are far from helpless. No, we can't prevent the tragedies that have already happened. We might not be able to prevent those that come in the future. But we can absolutely do something.

I'm not talking about gun control. Though it's worth taking a look at. Unfortunately, no amendment can amend what happened. No law can subvert the laws of nature.

I'm not talking about prayer. Though I'll be praying day and night for the lives lost, those destroyed, and for the protection of those that remain.

No, I'm talking about what the Apostle Paul referred to in Romans 13:10 as "the fulfillment of the law." Love. We can love.

What better way to combat hatred and anger, the kind of hatred and anger that caused tragedies from the Holocaust to 9/11 to Columbine to today's horrific events in Newtown. Love each other. Love each other like it matters, like there's no tomorrow. Go out of your way to make others smile. Go out of your way to tell the people you care about how you feel. Go out of your way to make the outcast feel special. Spread love like a disease--an epidemic of Biblical proportions. In short, care about others instead of putting them down, trying to defeat them, or feeling jealousy toward them.

Just love.

We may never know what caused one man to lash out at the world and destroy the future of Newtown, CT. But what we can be sure of is that it had nothing to do with love. A man filled with love, surrounded by love, emitting love, could not commit a crime such as this.

After all, with love, it's impossible to be numb.

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.
Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"All You Need is Love"
Performed by The Beatles