I spent the weekend thinking about Christmas cards, and Christmas presents. Not the ones that I have not yet bought, or sent, but ones that were postmarked Newtown last week, or purchased in Danbury a week or two ago, already wrapped and ready to be put under a Christmas tree. Cards with pictures of children on them, children who will not see the Christmas the cards celebrate; children who will not open the gifts purchased for them. I cannot think about these gifts, these cards. I cannot imagine the grief of the families.
The Newtown massacre joins too long a list of other such incidents in the history of this country. In these incidents a group of people—children, say, or young adults—are gathered somewhere safe. These safe places—elementary school classrooms, college classrooms, movie theatres—suddenly become places of carnage. We learn the details piecemeal, sometimes even as they are happening. Misinformation spreads, is corrected, is corrected again. A picture starts to emerge, too horrible to be believed. We look, and turn away, and look again.
I spent the weekend alternately looking and turning away. I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the topic with my son, who is fifteen. I knew he would know. Although he is not always clued in to the news, he is on Facebook, and he has friends who follow the news. He knew, but he turned away. He didn’t want to know more, and I didn’t blame him. We talked a little, talked again. Mostly, we talked about grief, and we talked about guns. Can we turn our grief into action? What would that action look like?
In our house, it might look like signing petitions for better gun control, an assault weapons ban, better access to mental health services. Other households might have different responses, and I am conscious here that grief takes on many forms, and there is no one right way to grieve. But as my son and I talked, tears welled up in my eyes, and when we were done, he gave me a hug before he went upstairs to work on his homework.
That is the one kind of action I think we can all agree on.
I’ll be off the next two weeks. As you send out holiday cards or wrap presents in the next week, I hope you have plenty of time to hug your loved ones as well.