I was reminded a few days ago, while delighting in Disney’s new movie Frozen, that twenty children will not be asking to go see it this year. Twenty children will not laugh at the jokes and reach for the stuffed animals. Twenty children rest without this story – and the many other surprises of Christmastime – in their precious heads.
My aunt, uncle, cousins, and a dear friend live in Newtown. Because they are hit even harder by this tragedy of one year ago, I am hit even harder. Their pain is my pain.
It’s one of those pinnacles in history where you know exactly where you were when you heard the news. Me, I was driving home from the Aquarium in Baltimore after a wonderful day with my father, who is gone more often than I’d like since he took a new job in Manhattan. I cried all night that night. By something else was born in me.
I would often say “I’m not big with kids.” In other words, I preferred intellectual, adult, no-need-for-patience interaction over…need-for-patience interaction. Something changed in me that night though. I now know what it was.
I teach a class of thirteen students in religious education. I love them so deeply I could tear up every time I stand before them, but for their sake, I resist. They have are more intellectual and adult than numerous adults.
I flashback frequently to the thousands of little students I’ve spoken to upon a stage in a cafeteria or gymnasium around the country about my children’s book, Marelous Mercer, and how they can become a writer, too. In Ohio, I visited four underprivileged schools. All the children created storybooks for me with crayons and stapled paper. I bent over with each of them, one by one, and found something to compliment in every creation. They flung their arms around me. They told me they wanted to be like me. Funnily enough, it is them I want to be like.
I'm an author of ten novels. My job is writing about heroes. But every time I stop and look at the blinking cursor on the page, I realize what I'm actually doing. I'm hoping I'll see myself in one of them. There is so much we can do for children. There are acts of kindness, love, and courage we may fight back against evil with. There are strangers we can grasp and eyes we can delve into. There are lone tables unapproached and flies unfreed from the spider’s web. There are laughs yet to be given and blushes yet to be drawn. My favorite, there are unexpected, moments-after-meeting “I love yous” yet to be spoken.
28 lives were lost total on this grim anniversary. We are left with broken pieces and hands untrained to repair such grief. But we know that love is the answer. We know what we need to do. We just need the courage to do it. Those children-turned-angels, from where they now perch, know this all with unimaginable clarity, and, from my guess, always have.
On the horrible day of Sandy Hook, my love for humanity that I so arrogantly flaunt was plunged further – plunged. Down. To those below me – in physicality, not in worth.
There are few things in the world I am not shorter than. Belts and shoes are my line of sight in a crowd. My life consists of looking up. Looking up to see. Looking up to hear. Looking up to be heard. Human eyes are my stars. Pockets of rest in the sea of chaos.
But there are sparkles below me. There are sunbeams on rivers and fireflies burning through tall grass. There are twenty of them I can count.
To the fireflies and the sparkles on water. We love you.
And we want to be like you.
My blessings and love to all in pain today. I share it.