Well, December 21, 2012, has come and gone, and we’re still here. Honestly, Doomsday pretty much escaped my notice, except for the ground swell of sarcastic posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.
No, the world as we know it didn’t end yesterday. At least for most of us.
But somewhere on this apocalyptic-free planet, I assure you, it did. Like in Newtown, Connecticut, where loved ones laid their wife/mother/girlfriend/son/daughter (five in all) to rest.
When the world ends, it usually doesn’t explode in a fiery inferno. Instead, life as we know it simply is no more. It either tumbles down around us. Or quietly slips away.
Over the years I have often quoted the following line from Mary Schmich’s famous “Sunscreen” column in the Chicago Tribune: The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday. Or, for the citizens of Newtown, at 9:30 am on some idle Friday.
I teach kindergarten, and Monday was the second hardest day of my thirteen-year career. 9/11 was the first. And that includes the day I got the call from my doctor telling me I had Stage I breast cancer.
Every single one of us—to one degree or another—has been there. You know, on the receiving end of “the news” that changes your life forever.
What do we do with that certainty of uncertainty? Live in gripping fear just waiting for our world to implode? Or cling tenaciously to the only things that will help us survive the fallout? Faith. Hope. Love.
Faith. It was faith that helped a teen-aged virgin believe an angel’s message that she would conceive a son out of wedlock. In one of my favorite children’s Bibles it says, “So Mary trusted God more than what her eyes could see.” Believing beyond what we can see when our grief and pain make it impossible. Believing that there really is something more.
Which leads to hope. But how can you hope when all hope is gone? Often, when we lose something or someone, we also lose hope—the hope inherent in that person or thing. Things like love, security, a future. For me, faith (and specifically my faith in Christ) is the key to hope. I have this hope “as an anchor for my soul, firm and secure.” ~Hebrews 6:19. It’s what keeps me from being tossed about when storms rage.
Finally, love. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. ~John 15:13. Rachel D’Avino. Dawn Hochsprung. Anne Marie Murphy. Lauren Rousseau. Mary Sherlach. Victoria Soto. Jesse Lewis. These, and nameless others, were the heroes of Sandy Hook. It will be their final acts of love and courage that live on and bring hope to those who remember them.
In memory, 26 balloons
So, this started out being a post about the thwarted Apocalypse and ended up being my way of processing what happened last Friday in Newtown.
Because I teach 6-year-olds, my first day back at school was especially hard. Making it through that day was a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. And I did so, recalling these words from President Obama’s speech given at an interfaith prayer vigil on Sunday:
There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have—for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace—that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger—we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.
And so I kept going that day, as we’ll all keep going. Clinging to what is true, doing what matters. Faith. Hope. Love. But the greatest of these is love.