Sunday, December 16, 2012

Outrageously senseless...

Friday,December 14th will be one of those days we will never forget.  For me, what had happened didn't really sink in until later that day.  When I first heard the news about the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut it was just back ground noise associated with any other radio commercial I heard that day while working in my office.  Then, later that morning,the radio program of Christmas music I was listening to was interrupted again with the news that a gunman had entered a school in Connecticut.  Again, I just kind of mentally brushed it aside since it didn't immediately affect me. This was in Connecticut - I'm in Tennessee. It did not make my "worry meter" go up since I knew my child was safely sitting in her high school classes just down the street.  It really did not affect me. I was busy going about my day, engrossed in my normal everyday life... No worries.

Later that day, as I was running some errands, I heard the news again... "at least 20 confirmed dead, some of them kindergarten children..." At that very moment, I felt this huge pit open in my stomach and a wave of emotion come over me as the reality of what had just happened that morning entered my world.  Five and six year old children...No God! Not that!

That evening, I made it home and was relieved to see my daughter on the couch watching TV, just as she always does at the end of the day.  My wife came in and I said to her, "have you heard the news today?".  She had a sad look came over her face. She too had been able to put the horrific event out of her mind just before I had reminded her. We looked at each other and just hugged each other.  Our thoughts were on the parents in Newtown... How can they go can they survive?

Our daughter was soon out the door to go to dinner with some friends, as teenagers normally do.  I doubt she felt or knew the panic I was feeling when I said my usual, "be careful, and call us when you get there."  "I will" she said in her usual exasperated tone.  Life was normal here in Tennessee.

We had no big plans for our evening. We ordered a pizza and watched the evening news as we waited. As we heard the reality of the horrific events as we listened silently to the reporters tell what they knew. We held each other's hands as we tried to hold back tears and an urge to sob uncontrollably.  Part of me wanted to get in the car and drive to Connecticut just to "do something". The other part of me wanted to run the other way to escape the flood of emotions and avoid seeing people in shear agony as the found out about their precious ones.  It was a feeling of helplessness, empathy,sympathy, anger and grief all rolled into one.

Sunday came and I went to serve at my Church as I usually do.  We offered prayers for the victims and their families during our regular Sunday Eucharist at St. Christopher's.  Our priest, The Rev. Maggie Zeller, attempted offer some words of comfort in her sermon, but she knew, as did everyone there Sunday, there are no words that can comfort. During our early service, I attempted to read the list of names, the list of young children and their teachers, during our prayers of the people. But as I started the list, I began to sob... Maggie had to finish reading the names.  I managed to get through the names in our second service, but not without a trembling voice and tears rolling down my face...

For the past few days all that has been going through my head are thoughts of terrified children and their parents helpless to protect them. And the only response that I can come up with is, "God help them... please!". But even those thoughts and words seem so inadequate. And the truth be known, there are probably no words that will bring any genuine comfort or hope.  All we are left with are our prayers. Prayers to God...but how could he let this happen!?  There are no answers...

The next few days and weeks are going to bombard us with the unthinkable images of tiny caskets and parents with inconsolable grief. The raw emotions will be unbearable at times. Our Christmas celebrations will go on as usual here in Tennessee as it will across the rest of the world.  In Newtown, Connecticut,Christmas and Hanukkah will never be the same. There is no joy, only intense sadness. It is all so outrageously senseless...

Our impulse is to begin looking for reasons as to why this happened.  We want to find someone or something to blame.  We want to know who could have stopped this... Why wasn't anyone warned about Adam Lanza!? Didn't they know he was dangerous!?   Then, why would a loving God that is supposed to protect little children let something like this happen!? Again no answers... The outrage we feel consumes us.

In these few days that the events of Friday have weighed so heavy on my heart and mind, I have come to understand that there will never really be any real explanation that is satisfying. No, I don't think this is part of "God's plan".  I just don't believe God works that way; not the loving God I know.  I have however come to realization that despite my rationalizations, there is truly evil that lurks in the world.  It is hard for me to understand and there is very little I can do to stop it.    Sure I could start a campaign to improve gun control laws or even have guns outlawed. But that would probably only cause more divisiveness.   My anger and outrage I have to give to God; he can handle it. The only reasonable response seems to be one of love and compassion; to love those around me.  Laugh when there is joyCry when there is sadnessBe present when there is loneliness.

I know that I will be of little help in providing comfort to the people of Newtown.  But what I can do is to continue to hold close those around me and pay attention to the little thingswe take for granted. I can cherish my wife and family and all the other gifts that God has given me. I can try and show patience with my daughter as she grows into adulthood.  I can help someone that needs some help.   I can be kind to strangers even when they are getting on my last nerve as I make my way through the shopping malls.  I can slow down and notice the little things that matter the most. The little things like time together with family and friends. Enjoying the sunsets, snowy days, and rainy days...Laughing at the silly things our cats do...Band concerts and children'splays...Enjoying the taste of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or pancakes on a Saturday morning... Driving through neighborhoods and looking at the tacky Christmas lights... But most of all being grateful for life that is so very fragile and with us for just a moment.

My brothers and sisters in Newtown, Connecticut are facing the darkest days of their lives.My prayers and hope is that they can find peace and comfort someway, somehow,someday... In the mean time we will cry with them from a distance and offer up our prayers for their healing.  May the children and teachers rest in peace...

Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with all the people of Newtown, Connecticut in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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