There's a picture taken by the Associated Press of the sister of one of the teacher's slain in Friday's school shooting. The woman's grief and agony is tangible, electrifying the photograph. There is no escaping her pain. I toiled with whether or not to read the article associated with the photograph but I'm glad I did. It was a story about love, of a passionate teacher who adored her "kids," and who died in an effort to protect them.
I don't claim to have the answers about what to do, where to begin or how to prevent this from happening again. I don't know all of the information of the day, or the specifics of the individual stories of those involved. What I do know is that the adults who lost their lives did so to save the lives of the children in their care. Yes, at the core of the story there is an ill young man who committed a heinous act of violence. But, above all that are the stories of innocent people who gave their own lives for others. These people were not soldiers, police officers, or firefighters. They were teachers. People who did not sign up to face down guns but who wanted to make the world a better place by educating our children. There are stories of kids whose lives were cut short, who were shining examples of how to love ferociously, and live with an exceptional generosity of spirit and heart.
So maybe, just maybe, the path to the answer begins with what all those people embodied---love.
Please don't mistake me. Violence in this country needs to stop. Gun control needs to be addressed. Mental health needs to be taken seriously and treated appropriately. But you know what? More than anything? We, as a society, as a group of people traveling through life together, we need to learn how to love.
Not the kind of love with the expectation of something in return. Not love when we're feeling generous and good and life is swell. Not superficial love of lip service and no action. Love as a verb.
So, love. Love when we're tired and cranky and nothing's going right in our lives. When someone is rude or unkind. When our differences and difficulties threaten our own security. When it's the last thing you want to do, do it anyway. Be the love, live the love. The kind of love that's not always easy, that takes concerted effort and work. That doesn't always pay off right away but is always right. The kind of love that Jesus and Buddha and Allah and Krishna and Yahweh all preach.
The teacher that shielded her children with her own body, taking bullets in order to save their lives-that's love. Right there. Selfless, pure love and the kind that we should all strive to practice. Let's focus our attention on them, cause they've got it right. Let's not let their lives be in vain, honor them by loving. Fiercely. Freely. Without exception or expectation.
There's no debating the horrific, unspeakable nature of this tragedy. But I ask you, what will debating, blaming, fighting --what will that do? Where will we be then? Still angry. Still heartbroken. Still terrified. And what does that breed? More of the same. Hatred, sadness, terror. And that's not going to solve problems, that's going to create more. So please, begin the path towards the answers with love.
Love your children. Love your friends. Love your family. Love your co-workers and your neighbors and your enemies and strangers. Love them in the name and memory of the people who died. Perpetuate the love they lived to honor their lives. They got it right. Now it's our turn.