God, help me to see this child as you would see them, help me to hear them as you would hear them and God, help me to do what you would do. Twenty-five years ago, that prayer took me into a place with a student that forever altered my life. The student was in crisis and now experiencing an un-expected pregnancy. The student would give birth to a wonderful daughter; she went on to graduate from high school; and has moved on to lead a happy and productive life. I learned from that experience that the prayer is a dangerous prayer and one must be prepared for drastic and often disruptive action.
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings and the slaughter of 20 children and seven adults on December 14, I find myself in search of the courage to give voice to the same prayer. I can’t drive to Newtown and embrace the wounds of the massacred, I cannot salve the hurt or pain of their parents, or make five and six-year olds laugh again. Others will need to do that. I can pray that God would give strength, healing, and restore hope to the young survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. For some reason my words seem hollow.
As I pray, all my protective instincts surface with both a passion and rage that demands an action. Signing a petition to improve our gun control laws – yes! Challenging members of Congress and our President to actually do something about access to guns or even better – improving access to mental health services – yes! Organize a petition drive that demands a change of leadership at the NRA – yes! Yet, it all still seems hollow.
So, the best I can do right now is to try and do what Jesus did – weep, forgive, and bring the children into his strong and warm embrace. I must turn and become like one of these little ones and find the dawn of a new day and be defined by a future that gives hope and pray that I will not be haunted by a past mesmerized by death. Today, I simply want to hug my children – some who are courageous teachers and child advocates – and if I could get to all 18 of my grandchildren, I would hug them and put them under my arms and tell them fun stories and of adventures in Africa. That feels right – but I cannot stop there. Recently a friend sent me this quote from William Lloyd Garrison, leader of the American Abolitionist movement during slavery and frankly, he captures my rage and my determination.
“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; – but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.”
We need to raise our voices on behalf of many of those who have no voice. The pundits are many, the solutions are complex, and there will be noise offering so many different solutions. That should not dissuade us or stop us. But I will, as long as I can draw a breath, work to make my world a safe place where children will not have to fear death, disease, starvation, or mad men with guns. Begin in your own home, your own community and never give up on a child.
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