Amid the darkest day, pockets of hope
A Mequon middle school.
A Glendale office.
A middle school in Cedarburg.
Surreal doesn't begin to describe what it felt like Friday afternoon helping Kapco collect toys as part of their annual Kids 2 Kids Christmas, going about our appointed rounds as America was absorbing the full scope of the Newtown, Connecticut horror. The news was just starting to break as I left home for my first stop in Mequon, but by the time I was joining the others in the Mequon school lobby for our first stop,reporters were starting to put numbers to the story: 27 dead, at least two thirds the victims children, perhaps no older than first grade.
We'd gather the toys, pose for pictures with student government kids before we'd head off to our next stop.
Traveling alone, I used the time to absorb as much new information as possible. Each detail seemed to add to the sickness, the depravity, the sadness. There was no light. Only black.
The Glendale office provided another brief respite--if anyone inside knew of the tragedy, they weren't talking. More toys, More pictures. More talk about helping the less fortunate, about the spirit of giving that's supposed to be what the day and the season are about.
Then it was back to the radio. A return to the dark reality.
Our last stop was a full school assembly, kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. Everyone gathered in the gym where the children collected for other boys and girls sat under a decorated tree. We made small talk beforehand, while the students were at recess. Again, no mention of the outside world. It was still Christmas where we were.
The kids filed in. As I looked at them, I couldn't help but to think of Newtown, a community that sent it's K-5 children to school this morning never thinking that 20 of them wouldn't make it to the end of the day. Those Cedarburg children, as well as kids all over the country, went home Friday night where they'd probably hear that something really bad had happened far away to kids just like them. There'll be tough questions--the young ones don't have to TRY to do that, it comes naturally because they're so damned honest. Parents will be hard pressed to answer them all, to restore their sense of security, to reassure them that what happened in Newtown won't happen to them.
Christmas will still arrive, but what happened today stains the season and erodes the sense of what this part of our lap around the sun is supposed to be about. Still, amid all that blackness and evil there were spots today where I was lucky enough to see what this time of year is supposed to stand for. Giving. Doing right by others. Helping strangers share a bit of joy.
May you be as fortunate to find such reassurance, be it in a talk with a friend, a chat with your spouse, or a hug from your child which is something no parent ever takes for granted.
Never more so than now.