The recent shooting of 20 grammar school children and 7 adults in the Newtown, Connecticut is a tragedy that is touching the hearts of people around the world. It has been almost impossible to watch the news unfolding without being overcome with sadness for the parents and families of those killed in this senseless act of violence.
I am reminded that we all have a choice.
We can be against the ownership of guns, we can be against the laws that allow such things to happen in our country. We can blame the shooter. We can blame the gun lobby. We can struggle to find the reason this terror happened. We are only human. We want answers.
Our ego loves to project our outrage, our opinions on why it happened, and our various solutions to fix the problem so it doesn’t happen again.That way we don’t have to deal with the terrible pain we are experiencing. It allows us to bury our pain inside our anger. The more pain we are feeling, the more aggressively we are likely to express anger and blame.
We need to remind ourselves that any thing, or anyone, we can be “against” is a natural human response because it not only holds our pain at a distance, our intellectual outrage also strengthens our self-identity. We can demand answers. We can demand that this not be allowed to happen again.
This emotional knee-jerk ego response may be common but it ignores the reality that the pain we are feeling is not in our head. It’s in our soul. It’s a pain that calls for healing, compassion, listening, and understanding at a much deeper level than simple intellectual “fixing” and “blame”.
The blame and the fixing needs to happen, but not today. Today we need to embrace the silence that heals grief. The prayers that make us a caring community. The emotional “holding” that conveys to the hearts of those who have lost a child, or a family member, that they are not alone in their grief.
Even the family of the young man who shot his mother and 27 people needs our compassion. We can only imagine the pain or mental illness that led him to commit such violence against so many innocent people. He too needs to be held in our compassion; in our hearts.
Only our souls can heal the kind of pain we are witness to in Newtown.
Many years ago a family that I was close to had a son involved in an auto accident. He had suffered a very serious head injury and the doctors were not certain he would survive. The mother sent her other son to pick up the father at the airport later that evening. On the way to the airport, this second son was killed by a drunk driver.
I was at the hospital when the news of the second son’s death was received. I had no idea what to say in that moment. I will never forget the relief I felt when the family’s priest arrived. He was an experienced pastor and a close friend of the family. I held my breath wondering what he would say to them.
He walked up to the mother and father, put his arms around them, and simply held them. After about twenty minutes the only words he spoke was to tell them he would be back, and then he quietly left the waiting room. He knew there were no words that he could share with them that would make a difference. So he just held them.
I have never forgotten that experience.
I think that is what those families in Newton, Connecticut need from us right now. The simple knowledge that a nation is holding them as they begin the long process of healing ahead of them.
We obviously need to search for answers…….but not right now.