Friday, December 21, 2012

The Good Things

It is, of course, impossible to get our heads around the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We can try. We will fail. We should fail. We should, as rational human beings, be unable to understand how another human being can become so lost as to kill innocents.

But we humans do that a lot don't we? I try and try to pretend we don't. But history tells me I'm wrong. We do the same damn thing over and over and then we are horrified. My editor and I were talking the other day -- before last Friday's horrific events. We were establishing the angel world some more as I work to write the sequel to THE SWEET DEAD LIFE. And together we decided that in the world I was creating -- a world in which a 14 year old girl's brother returns as her guardian angel, returns in fact, as quickly as he can because although he is deeply flawed he loves her and won't leave her alone-- in that world, there is no supernatural evil equivalent. Only the evil that humans do to one another.

Which is more than enough.

And then it was last Friday. A week ago now. I was packing us up to drive to Dallas to spend weekend with son and daughter in law. We listened to the news the entire way there.  With each mile we were more devastated. Occasionally we tried to make sense of it-- to analyze why. You know-- we're probably right in the conclusions we came to. But it only makes me feel empty.

Now the governor of Texas where I live wants to arm teachers with weapons. This is the solution he has come to. I want to weep. The dark humor side of me (and if you've been teacher in the public school system for any length of time you become an expert at dark humor even as you love the kids you teach) does actually laugh. Until I quit last year to write full time, I had taught in the same high school for over 20 years. Over the years, I had colleagues who were sometimes mildly unhinged. Sometimes more than mildly. I had students who were on the brink of despair for many good reasons and sometimes for none. More than one former student tragically took his or her own life. One teacher went wacky and let the kids smack up the room, bubble in their own grades, and then trashed the ladies restroom. Another dumped a bucket of water on a kid's head. One came to school in spandex and barely anything else after having knifed her husband. Another turned off the lights one day, locked the door, and lay on the floor eating Reese's. And on like that. More than one Texas legislator is on the record saying we should put M-4's in every classroom. Really? Really?

I try to make sense of it. Is it the media? Is it our insistence that we have it our way all the time? I was doing a gift wrap fundraiser two days ago at the mall. One woman got close to irate that it would be 10 minutes (10!) until her package was wrapped. Is it our failure to teach our children resilience? Maybe. For a few years, my school's policy was that no one could fail with less than a 50. I had a student who stopped coming to school. He did NO WORK. The policy required me to give him a 50. I refused. I had to argue it out with the principal. "But then he can't pass," I was told. "Remember he's a senior." Is it the failure to parent? Sometimes. If you're a teacher you see a lot of that. It is easier to put off the responsibility. To blame the economy or whatever. But it's not just that. People get sick.  People get crazy. They always have. I tell myself that the 24 hour news cycle makes it seem worse than it is. I want to believe I'm right.

But 20 children are dead. So are 6 adults.
And you know what else? I cringe at all the talk of teachers as heroes. As 'making the ultimate sacrifice.' Because if I'm in a classroom, I want to help. To teach. To talk. To listen. I do not want to take a bullet. Nor should I.

And still. There is a huge amount of good in this world. Which is what today's post is really about.

Let me tell you about the good stuff. And you know what's amazing? There is so much good stuff that I can't fit it in one post.
  • Most people I encounter are essentially nice. Sometimes amazingly so. I try to keep track of even the littlest thing -- like the lawn company truck and trailer that backed up out of the Starbucks drive through line so I could back out of my parking space. He didn't have to. But he did.
  • The authors and editors I work with who are brilliant and articulate and generous of spirit. I am always aware that I am a 'later in life' career changer, dancing as fast as I can. So I am endlessly grateful to those who mentor me. To the enormous crew of new colleagues and friends that have entered my life. Again -- they don't have to help. But they do.
  • The indie booksellers in our community who give Houston a lovely and cozy place to congregate, read, think, talk. They build an oasis of calm civility that is sorely needed.
  • Every day I am humbled by people who work time into their lives to minister to the sick, donate to charities, volunteer, contribute, give, use their skills to create, to heal, to teach, to inspire. They do this as a matter of fact in their lives, not just in times of dire catastrophe.
And on like that.  I hope that I put some good out there as well. I know I try to.
So -- I am sad this week but I am hopeful. I want to believe that the dialogue that's begun will actually continue. That we won't drift off to watch the Kardashians in the new year and forget until the next time.

 I hope there won't be a next time. 

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