I, like almost everyone in our country and perhaps around the world, am stricken by this past week’s event at the elementary school in Connecticut. But my grief feels out of proportion to me. I can’t stop crying. I know tears are good, AND I know we get hit in the gut especially when tragedies involve children, AND having it happen at Christmas seems particularly devastating. However, I feel like my reaction is bigger than it should be, given that I do not know the families or children, I have a full, busy life that should at least partially keep me on a steady keel, and I have an incredible community here and know, by experience, that the Newtown, Connecticut community will be well taken care of.
So….why the weeping? After a couple of days of reflection, I think it comes down to the work I do…as a foster parent. I live for children. They are my passion, my heart, and my LIFE right now. I hurt in bigger ways than just the fact of 20 children dying senseless deaths. I hurt, because children suffer senseless abuse, abandonment, and fear every day. I hurt because the day-to-day healing for my kids is exhausting, exhilerating, scary, delightful, and just plain hard work. I hurt because I’m guessing (lost count), that over the past twenty-one years, I’ve cared for at least 20 children, briefly or long term, who have been terrified, grief-stricken, and abused to the point of fearing for their lives. In other words, the children I’ve cared for are what feels like the equivalent of the 20 children who died — compounded, magnified, personalized. No one has ever lowered their flags for my children. No one has ever shown up with a news pass to report the tragedies. No one has ever followed up a year later to see how their lives have grown or changed or to celebrate how resilient children can be.
It’s not that I want this for my kids, but I DO want the national consciousness to recognize that there are thousands of kids (many more than 20) who are so hurt, every day. If we compressed the number of kids from around the country who have to enter foster care in a month or a year into a single day , the shock would reverberate everywhere. I could get up on my soap box right now about the mountains of crazy dichotomies in this country, but I won’t. I simply want to voice, in my own quiet spot (ok, I have 7 children in my home, so quiet might not be the right word) that the passion and horror that everyone feels about what happened to these 20 precious souls needs to grow and grow and grow until it’s a visible horror to everyone that there are children in danger in their own homes every day. I want the world to show up to help.
But I’m still not sure that’s what my weeping is all about. I’m thinking, even as I type, that the grief is for all children who are hurt or killed, but it’s also the release of passion (perhaps not even sadness or grief) to ensure that all children are loved. My comfort in the tragedy in Connecticut is that those children were loved. And, I suspect, up to the morning that they died, they KNEW they were loved. They were hugged and snuggled and fed. Family and community showed up on the first day of school, and checked their homework, and took them to soccer practice and ballet class. Moms and Dads read bedtime stories and said prayers. And that is the joy and comfort that these families need to nurture.
Because the children I have care for do not know that. They are afraid to love and be loved. They are afraid to trust. They are afraid to plan for the future. Most of them do not come with baby pictures and have huge gaps in their education profile. So I live with these precious souls and provide structure, safety, routine, and love. Day by day and week by week, we go through cycles of personal grief and healing and fun and tears and anger and fear and, once in a while, glimpses of hope. If I have any message for the community of Newtown Connecticut, it’s just this…be alive and don’t be afraid to love deeply.
So I weep for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary – all of them. But I WEEP for the passion I have that NO CHILD should be treated as anything less than the most precious gift that anyone on this whole earth could receive.
As I weep…I will share a moment of joy that no weeping can smother. 🙂