Saturday, December 15, 2012

In the Wake of a School Massacre, The Smallest Actions of Love

The murder of 26 innocents in a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school and the suicide of the shooting suspect are evils I am unable to absorb. I struggle to even pray about this. Words feel inadequate.

Instead, yesterday and today, I have tried to make my actions my prayers, focusing on the children put in front of me: my own children, their friends, and the dozens of students I teach. Is this self-absorption? Is there something more, something bigger I should be doing? In a piece he wrote today, Father Christian Mathis' words reassured me that the conversion of my own heart has got to come first: "Prayer and even the smallest actions of love are powerful weapons in the battle against the evil still present in our world today."

This is a picture of our younger son, at right, and his best friend this morning. L. and A. have been friends since they attended kindergarten  9 years ago. It occurred to me today that they were the age of the youngest victims when they first met. A. , who lives about 30 minutes from us, slept over last night and this morning I drove the two boys to northern New Jersey for a cooking class. This was our family's long overdue present 13th birthday was in May. Under the tutelage of Alma Schneider, the boys learned to make dumplings from scratch.

 I have been following Alma's blog for years, swiping recipes and practical kitchen tips.  In real life, she is a licensed social worker  and chef who gives workshops and classes that help folks, adults mostly,  overcome their psychological obstacles to cooking. She's like the home ec teacher you never had. 

Alma generally doesn't open her own kitchen for lessons, and instead visit her clients' kitchens or hosts workshops at corporations or schools. But graciously let the boys spend two hours learning this morning while her own four children and husband were out of the house. (The lesson also enabled me to take an hourlong walk on a beautiful December day) 

 In the grand scheme of life, this morning was a small gesture. But really, all we have is what is in front of us. I cannot personally change public policy or reform our nation's mental health care system or do much of anything systemically to prevent violence. But as a mother, I can ensure the children in my life are nourished with heavy doses of love and kindness and that I put in front of them people who do the same. How lovely to meet a woman who lives in a lavender house and who was willing to spend two hours listening to two thirteen-year-old boys chatter to her while she taught them  skills they will carry with them to adulthood.

"Do your little bit of good where you are; 
it is those little bits of good put together 
that overwhelm the world." ~ Desmond Tutu


  1. "I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you yours." from St. Francis on his deathbed. Sometimes there is only what is right in front of us and choosing to do that.

  2. Thank you Shannon, once again for wonderful quotes and insights.