I write as a mother who brings two of her children to a public elementary school every day and every day leaves them with a passing thought that on that day, they could be swallowed by the mouth of the beast of violence.
I write as a progressive minister who does not believe in a place called "hell," a fiery pit, a devil with a pitch fork, but who does know that hell exists on this planet and it is happening now to the parents of those children and it is the mind of the shooter and it was the time of heart stopping fear when teachers gathered children into corners.
It is unacceptable to send one's "sympathy." Send your sympathy when someone's 98 year old grandmother dies! This is a senseless tragedy, but no tragedy is meaningless. Those children CANNOT have died in vain. Each of us has the opportunity to make meaning from this moment that changes our lives individually and collectively. We must not cry and change the channel. I REFUSE to accept school massacres as the "the way things are." I WILL NOT raise my children with the lurking shadow of disaster invisible in their school rooms.
The folk singer Cheryl Wheeler wrote a song called "If It Were Up To Me," in which she describes a variety of reasons for violence (in response to another tragedy) and her last line: "If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns."
Well, so would I. We CAN redeem this tragedy. Tragedy can be redemptive and I'll tell you how: respond to the loss by loving your children more, loving people more, forgiving and savoring the day as if you might not see tomorrow, rethink your hobbies that promote a culture where violence is so acceptable that for some watching the news of this shooting barely registered--these may be shooting practice, using hand guns for sport, watching violent films, playing violent video games, accepting the violent tendencies of children without conversation or guidance (and there are others). We MUST take care of our boys and men. Has one of these shootings in the past two decades been from the hand of a female? We MUST pay attention and care for the men and boys who are other people's children too.
You and I, this very day, can be transformed for the better by an act that looks like nothing good could EVER come from it. When terrorists strike, the nation stands up and says: Never Again. There is nothing else to say (are you listening, Mr. President?), but NEVER AGAIN. We all must change our hearts, our minds, and our lives. We can look to the countries that do not suffer from this horrific malady of spirit and learn.
I write as a mother whose heart breaks for those parents and who asks herself: what can I do to help? I want to join with others, one by one, to make a world where IT NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN. I want to step away from the sorrow and fear into power and honor--to make meaning out of the senselessness and honor the lives of those children by changing the world now and forever.