Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Year Later

The shooting deaths of a classroom full of elementary students in Connecticut happened a year ago this week. I wrote some about it last year when it happened. This week I've been reflecting some more on exactly what it means and how (and especially why) we react the way we do.

Intellectually we know most people don't deserve to die - certainly no children do. But an intellectual commitment to the value of human life doesn't engage our emotions when hundreds of thousands of children die everyday of hunger, malnutrition, and preventable diseases. Those deaths are tragedies, we know it, but we don't react the same way.

I've been trying to figure out the connection between our visceral reaction to such traumatic events and my hesitancy to intrude on the pain and grief of the people who actually knew and loved these kids.

In the end, I think, we connect to these tragedies because we know children like them. We see their faces on TV and we know children who look like them. We know children in first grade or fifth grade. We know children we substitute for the deceased in our heads and it creates an emotional reaction.

We care about these kids who are complete strangers to us because we think about losing kids who aren't strangers. We empathize.

Instead, however, of inserting ourselves into the tragedy of others, spending the day on the couch watching coverage, and whatever else we do, I think we should spend that effort engaging with the kids we're actually upset about, the ones we think about losing, the ones that connect us emotionally to the unknowns who've actually died.

I've been thinking about that this week and then I came across this article from my old stomping grounds. Sister Berta is a hero - an inspiration to many of us who spent time working with kids in Kansas City. I think she gets it. We need to react to terrible tragedies, yes with empathy, but also with a renewed conviction to engage with the kids around us.

It seems strangely appropriate this time of year to think and talk (and do) some good in the lives of our kids, the kids around us, and the kids who should be around us more.

No comments: