Re-learning Perspective through Tragedy

I have only been able to tolerate the news in small doses this weekend. This horrible atrocity in Connecticut rips at my heart. I am a mom. I have a first grader. This news is my worst nightmare. That this is reality for twenty mothers — it’s just too much.

Before I open my laptop, I take a deep breath, sit up straighter, steel myself for the tiny tidbit of news I can digest before I must close my laptop again.

I have this luxury. This luxury of closing my laptop. Reading half a story, deeming it too much, then shutting out the bad news. Closing my laptop and baking brownies for my houseful of children. My children who are still alive. I have this luxury that twenty mothers in Connecticut do not have.

I am a learner. There is a part of me that believes we owe it to the people in Newtown to learn something from this. It seems I’m not alone in this thinking – immediately after the news broke, conversations sprang up all over the internet about more gun control, less gun control, school safety, mental illness, violent video games. Those are conversations we need to have in this country.

But so many of those conversations sound like empty rhetoric to me right now. So many of those conversations are rehearsed, regurgitated sound bites or shallow bumper sticker thoughts spewed out. With the exception of a couple deeply thought-provoking essays about mental illness, those conversations have been fingernails on the chalkboard of my heart these past couple days.

Last night, after avoiding it for a couple hours, I braced myself and opened the news to read the list of victims. That’s when I came across this —

Charlotte, who had long curly, red hair, had begged her mother for a new outfit she was supposed to receive, her uncle told  Newsday. Her mother relented on Friday and allowed her to wear the outfit: a pink dress and boots. (*from an article by NBC News Staff) 

And that is when I lost it. Salty tears streamed down my face, dripping onto my keyboard.

How many times have I belligerently argued with one of my children —
“No, you are not wearing that Tony Hawk jacket in your school picture!”
“You’ve already worn that WVU jersey to school this week. Wear something else.”
“Those jeans may be your favorite, but they’re a tiny bit too short. Can’t you wear another pair?”
“Those are church clothes. You can’t wear those to school.” 

Seriously. Something as petty and insignificant as clothes can wreak havoc on our morning routine. Because I let it. Not always. But sometimes. On my worst days.

But that sweet, sweet momma. Charlotte’s momma. She let little Charlotte wear her new pink dress and boots. She relented. I imagine that momma has wept tears of gratefulness that she changed her mind, that she gave in and let her little girl wear the new outfit on what turned out to be her very last day here.

Perspective. That’s what I want to re-learn from this horrific tragedy.

I don’t want to waste precious moments arguing about too-short jeans or too-worn jackets. I don’t want to save things for special occasions that may never come. I don’t want to nag about hair that’s too shaggy or eyeliner that’s too dark or any other petty thing that wouldn’t matter at all if I knew my children were walking out the door for the very last time.

This awful, shocking evil makes me heartsick. No parent should have to endure this heinous reality.

To honor their suffering, I want to redeem a sliver of growth, a fragment of good from this horror. My shiny shred of truth and growth is Perspective.

What about you? What are you learning from this atrocity?


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