The 5 stages of grief are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. According to my Facebook newsfeed, it is clear to me that in the last 10 days, society has collectively steamrolled our way past denial and we have moved right on to anger. Good news: we are getting somewhere. Bad news: we may not be going in the right direction.
Most of this anger comes in justifiable calls for gun control and better mental health care. I say Amen to both of these. I, personally, can think of no possible reason for a person who legally wants to protect their home or go hunting to need a semi-automatic weapon. Apart from a zombie apocalypse I cannot imagine why anyone would need something that shoots 45 rounds per minute. Neither do I think it reasonable to strip every single person outside the military and police of their right to bear arms.
So we need reform on gun control yes, better mental heath care, double yes. In my therapist days I treated a boy eerily similar to Adam Lanza. He was a 13 year old schizophrenic raised by a single mother who, to put food on the table, left him to his own devices the majority of waking hours. I echo the frustrations raised by parents of the mentally ill and their doctors. The parents need support and resources, the therapists and doctors need something more effective than a 72-hour hold. Our system is broken and needs fixing.
But what does that mean to you and me? I don’t know about you but no one in Congress has sent me a personal invitation to come stand on a soapbox and tell them how to fix things. In all my free time I have not yet completed the perfect comprehensive mental health plan that solves all these issues. Even if I did, I’m pretty sure no one would care. I personally don’t know how to bring together both sides on such a volatile issue as gun control. Maybe we sign an online petition, or urge against signing an online petition. At the end of the day we wring our hands and ask, What else can I do? I think we can do more because I think this tragedy was about more.
About a year ago, I was pulling out of a parking spot on a busy street in my town. The spaces on this street are lined up at a weird angle forcing you to inch inch inch your way back until the back half of your car is sticking out into the street before you even have a view of cars coming your way. It is common for the folks of our town to routinely pass by cars that are halfway out of a space without a blink. I was doing the inch inch inch waiting for a gap in traffic to come when a driver apparently thought I was trying to cut her off. The woman laid on her horn and came to a full stop next to me. “WHAT THE F*&# ARE YOU DOING?!” She hollered at me. “Uh…I…” “Mommy”, came a voice from the backseat, “What’s that lady saying?” So I rolled up my window as fast as possible, more worried about what my children were hearing than explaining myself to Crazypants. She ranted for another 10 seconds then sped off.
Wow. This is where we are y’all. We are going around doing life at a 10. We are angry about our jobs. We are angry about our relationships. We are angry about what happened in Connecticut. We take out that anger on those who think differently than us. If someone looks at us wrong, cuts us off in line, or God forbid inches out of a parking spot anywhere near us, we lose our ever loving minds. I say we because I really mean me.
Just the other day I was at the drive thru line at Mc Donald’s. Now, before you judge, I really really wanted a coffee. Drive thru coffee was invented to save parents like me from unbuckling 4 children in the rain, traipsing into a Starbucks, waiting in line while keeping them from unplugging peoples laptops and sneaking bites of strangers muffins then traipsing back out into the rain where statistically at least 1 out of 4 will run away from me, making me spill my coffee to make sure they don’t get hit by a car thus nullifying the $2.75 I really shouldn’t be spending on coffee to begin with. First world problems, I know, but still.
So, I’m sitting in line at McD’s hoping against hope that the children don’t take notice too soon. I’m second in line and the quicker I get in and out the less the widow of time to hear, “MC DONALDS! CAN I HAVE A HAPPY MEAL? CAN I HAVE AN ICE CREAM? WHAT TOYS DO THEY HAVE, CAN I HAVE A TOY MOM? PLEASE JUST ONE TOOYYY MOM PLEEEEASSSE”
I was so close to getting through unnoticed when out of nowhere comes a woman talking on a cell phone who cuts right in front of me. I felt my blood pressure skyrocket. I instinctively laid on the horn then recoiled in horror because I remembered Crazypants. At the time I was so appalled at her level of misplaced rage and here am I, hypocrite that I am that I can’t get my McLatte as fast as I want to. We all think we are at a 3 or a 4, and sometimes, maybe during yoga class we are. But the majority of us go around at a 10.
Adam Lanza should have had other people supporting his mother in raising him. He should not have had access to assault style weapons. He should have had access to good, affordable mental health care. I fully support the world grappling with these issues and fighting the good fight on them. I even think we need to get a little angry to work through our collective grief. But Adam Lanza was still going around at a 10. He was still looking for someone to set him off- an outlet for his aggression.
As I said in my last post, we have to pick up our piece of this awful grief that surrounds us. We have to carry some of this burden for these destroyed families. But we have to pick up a piece of our responsibility too. Our society helped create Adam Lanza. He was definitely a sick and tormented man. What he did was unconscionable. But he was also a product of the world around him.
My son recently told me about a boy in his class who had been mean to him. I asked who this kids friends were and my son said, “Oh, no one wants to be friends with him. He makes weird noises and gets mad a lot. Plus, he uses bad words.” Already, in first grade this child is classified. He is weird. He is other.
Maybe my small part of the responsibility is to teach my child that the mad kid who makes weird noises is the kid we need to invite to play dates. Maybe my piece is to talk to his mom, to get involved in her life, to ask her out for coffee instead of the women I naturally gravitate to with similar interests and friendly children. Maybe my piece is to stop worrying if other kids are being nice to mine at school and start instilling in him a love for the people around him by my own example.
My life is small. It feels mundane and insignificant. I am busy and sleep deprived. I just want my coffee in a timely manner before all of my kids implode in their car seats. I just want to relax for the few and precious minutes of down time between changing diapers and cleaning up messes with friends, not strangers. I don’t really want to take the chance of my kid being labeled ‘other’, or picking up bad language. I don’t want to step outside my comfort zone. I’m usually so overwhelmed at the needs of my family that I rarely seek out the needs of others.
But at what cost can we continue to think only of our families and ourselves? At what point do we say enough of this madness? Enough of our kids being gunned down. Enough of this brokenness. Enough of this hate. Just because we can’t do something big does not mean we shouldn’t do anything at all.
So, I am going to try to do the small things, the hard things. My kids and I are making approximately 4,000 batches of cookies to take to neighbors. I want to see them and look into their eyes and wish them a Merry Christmas. I want to get to know and be known by those I’m camped near. Tonight we are going caroling with our church at a convalescent home, we will bring cheer whether they want it or not. I will do my best not to get aggressive in the McDonalds drive thru. I will allow God to use me as His hands and feet to a hurting world.
In a way these things have nothing to do with what happened in Connecticut but in a way they have everything to do with it. I acknowledge that these things are small and that I am no world changer. But I am a society shaper and so are you. We, all of us are like skipping stones, disturbing the water around us for better or worse. Our parts may be big or small but we all have a part to play.