A week ago, there was another school shooting and this time it happened in our area. 10 more lives were taken. It is a thing that words do not touch, a thing that is too big and too grievous and too complicated to put into a sound bite or easy quote, though there have been many attempts. This is not one of those attempts. As I have been reeling and ripped apart over and over again by fresh glimpses of the reality we live in, it has often felt helpless and much too massive for the grasp of my hands. The changes that need to be made are complex and systemic, and because so many cannot agree on anything, we remain stuck on our hills as these tragedies occur one after another, tossing blame and judgment like grenades. Those substantial systemic changes are absolutely needed, but they are not everything. I needed to think about what I can do right now, in my corner of the world, so that I am not swallowed by helplessness. This list is a small start…
I can make sure the guns/ammunition in my home are locked away securely and only adults have the ability to access them.
I can fight the urge to believe that it shouldn’t matter whether my guns are secure because I don’t think it could ever be my child. Nobody sees this coming.
I can be a soft and secure place for my kids to talk about hard things. I can start hard conversations so they know I am not afraid to be a part of them, even about things like hurting themselves or others.
I can make sure they have other trustworthy adults in their lives who love them and who they feel comfortable reaching out to if they cannot come to me.
I can prioritize mental and emotional health and not minimize their thoughts and feelings, even when I see things differently from my perspective.
I can refuse to take part in dehumanizing individuals or groups and speak out against it when I see it happening. Every human was made in the image of God. Gender, race, class, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, behavior…none of these things change the inherent worth of a human life.
I can teach my kids to open their hearts to empathy, to see the world from eyes that are not theirs and feel things from hearts that are not theirs and listen to voices that do not sound like theirs.
I can love my kids for the people they are, not the people I thought they would be or hope they one day become, but the people they are right now; and I can let them know I cherish them exactly as they are and that this love is immutable.
I can teach my kids that they do not have rights to other people’s bodies and nobody has rights to theirs; that consent should always be enthusiastic and freely given, that the boundaries people draw should not be viewed as obstacles to hurdle over or press through even if those boundaries differ from their own.
I can teach my son that it is okay to be a full person, with a wide range of emotions and desires and interests and goals and relationships, not only those that people have deemed “manly”.
I can teach my daughters that it is okay to be a full person, with a wide range of emotions and desires and interests and goals and relationships, not only those that people have deemed “feminine”.
I can do my best to make the circle bigger, to build up a community of love, where humans are welcomed and valued and encouraged to blossom into themselves more fully, to be a safe place for hurting people, to mend broken things as often as I have the opportunity.
I can continue to have important conversations about changes that need to happen that are larger than what each of us can do alone and advocate for those changes, because it does not have to be either/or.
It’s not enough, but it’s a place to start.
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