Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Love Thy Neighbor

The horrific events of Sandy Hook Elementary are understandably on all our minds.  From the moment I’ve woke in the morning until late, in the darkness of the night, I’ve wondered what has gone wrong with our nation, with our people, with our children.

I’ll tell you now that I have no answers.  I’m not going to end this with “all we have to do is….      Oh, but I wish it were that easy.   But I will tell you some of the things I have pondered when I wondered what has changed and where I have ended up with the things that have stayed the same.

I know that many of you will not like this, but I cannot blame guns.  Guns are no more readily available today than they were when I was a kid.  Or when my mom was a kid.  In fact, they are less available today.  When I went to school, many of the boys drove pickups when they were old enough, and most of those pickups had guns in the racks. On the school property.  And almost all of us passed a loaded shotgun on our way out the door on the way to school.  Yet there were no gun problems at my school, or the surrounding communities.  So if guns haven’t changed, what has?  The following is a list of things that I have thought of… certainly not exhaustive, and certainly not particularly politically correct or in any order.  But these are my thoughts, and I’m not trying to convince you that these things are responsible for this type of tragedy, only that these things are different from when we were kids.


1.       Boys were boys.  They got into fistfights on the playground and the teachers dusted them off and sent them back to class.  They learned when it was appropriate to use their fists, and when it wasn’t.  I wonder if boys today are a bottled up pressure of anger and hormones with no place to release until they hit 20 and then it blows.

2.      Violent TV, movies, and video games.  Sure, Matt Dillon shot guys, but it wasn’t hour after hour of gratuitous violence, and it wasn’t so realistic that it made you sick.  Have we made our kids numb to violence and killing?  Have they spent so many hours in front of make-believe that they have lost touch with reality?

3.      Mom stayed home.  I know that this will bring up a sore spot with many, but this is something that changed.  I wonder if we felt guilty leaving our kids to go to work, so we made up for it by buying them things and giving them stuff instead of time.

4.      Political correctness.  Today we take the kids that are different and pretend that they are not.  We used to put kids with behavior disorders in different classrooms and keep a closer eye on them. Today, we mainstream them, but we don’t fool the kids or their classmates and I wonder, do we just frustrate these kids by placing them alongside the other kids?  (again, I’m just saying this is different, not right or wrong)

5.      The media.  We are bombarded by media, and increasing amounts of emotional reporting, pictures, sounds- etc.  We are also a society very focused on celebrities.  Do some kids look for a ways to make it to the evening news?  To be a celebrity? 

6.      Suicide attacks.  This is something that was almost unheard of until fairly recently.  In fact, in our country (and most of the world), a person willing to die while committing a crime is almost impossible to stop.  A person willing to die could do damage and probably kill people in almost any neighborhood, any home, any business, or any school in our country.   And this is what made me start thinking about this problem from another side. 


So there are tens of thousands of schools in this country.  There are roughly 75 MILLION children in the US.  And while even one crime against one child is too many, the fact is that MOST of our children and most of our schools are safe.  In fact, the chances are probably extremely small that any of us would ever have any contact with a situation like this except through the media.


In my lifetime, I have been some pretty rough places.  At age 10-15, I used to walk about a mile from my grandmother’s through the woods, without a flashlight.  I remember hearing wild animals, and stepping off the path in the dark.  But I was never really afraid.  I drive through “bad” neighborhoods, I’ve driven alone across the country, I’ve traveled alone to countries that were at war, and I’ve been to countries where I didn’t speak the language- including ones that didn’t much care for women traveling alone.  But I was never really afraid.    Nevertheless, following last week’s tragedy, I began to consider for the first time, getting a concealed carry permit to carry a weapon.  Not that I’m really frightened, but I began to wonder if I needed to carry the protection of a gun, BECAUSE OF WHAT I’VE HEARD ON THE NEWS AND SEEN ON TV.  Not because of something I have experienced myself.   And if watching that on the news makes ME a little afraid, makes me a little apprehensive, makes me think about getting a gun, what does it do to someone who is already afraid? To someone who is mentally unstable?  To someone who is carrying years of anger? To someone who doesn’t know how to relate to other people?  What happens to the kid that never fit in?


So rather than getting a concealed carry, today I am making a commitment to love my neighbor.  I don’t know what pain that stranger is suffering, but perhaps if we show a little kindness, we show them an alternative reality.  A reality that doesn’t include violence, and killing, and TV cameras.  And though I will never know if it has made a difference, it certainly will never hurt.  


And THIS is something that has never changed.  Something that St. Francis knew long ago.


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.



  1. Lori - thanks for your thoughts. I agree with most, not all, but for sure the love your neighbor. Our church has a program we are using - called Standing on the Side of Love - not always easy, but as you say in the long run a good way to try and go.

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