In the wake of horrific tragedy…

I am a mom, as most of you know. I have one daughter. She is four, and will be five in January.

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There she is all dressed up and ready for her school Thanksgiving Feast last month.

And she is only about a year younger than many of the victims of the terrible, terrible shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT today.

My daughter means more to me than words can ever say, and though I’d like to think she knows it, I am reminded of all the times that I’ve gotten frustrated with her over the little things: Leaving a granola bar wrapper in the living room, not being able to find her shoes fast enough, sticking her finger in the cookie dough… again…

These things seem so trivial now. My heart breaks for the parents whose children will never cuddle with them on the couch again, never sneak into their bed at three a.m. again, will never celebrate another Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa again. I cry at the thought of some of them dropping their kids off at school, frustrated because they’ll be late for work (again) and ranting to their coworkers, while their child sits, terrified, locked in a closet at school.

Tonight, when I got home from work, I did not run to make dinner. I did not turn on my computer. My cell phone stayed in my purse, and the home phone was only used to check in with my parents, and confirm that a family we know in Newtown was, indeed,  alright. My daughter and I sat on the couch, watching Disney fairy movies until it was almost time for bed. And then I decided that there was no better night to get our Christmas cookies baked. And, what the hell, we would even eat some of the dough too.

The bedtime hugs were a little bit longer. The bedtime story was a little bit nicer to read (even if I did get interrupted every third sentence). And my daughter is none the wiser for the situation in Connecticut. Which is okay, because she shouldn’t know that kind of fear at the age of four. No child should EVER have to know that kind of fear.

A friend of mine posted a status update on Facebook that posed the question of “So any bets as to how long till FB becomes land of the first-world-rants and kittens again? And how long till the average American forgets what town we were talking about all day?”

The sad thing about that, is that he makes a point. We get so caught up in our problems of the day-to-day that we don’t spend enough time doing the things that really matter. It’s not how clean my house is, it’s how hard I laughed with my family today. It’s not where I left my cell phone for the five-thousandth time, it’s how long my daughter snuggled with me on the couch.

So, I make a request of all of you – Pay attention to where your time and energy goes. Is it worthwhile? I leave you with two things. The first is a short moral story of sorts:

A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter.He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, your house, your car.The sand is everything else. The small stuff.”“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life.If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

The second just happens to be one of my favorite things ever.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

By Robert Fulghum

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wistom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sand pile at Sunday school. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick and Jane books, and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply to it your own family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm.

Think what a better world it would be if all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon, and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it’s still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

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