What Comes After the Grief?

WILL THE MASSACRE at Sandy Hook Elementary School touch the nation’s soul or just make headlines for a short time? I think that will be up to us who are parents—to respond as parents.

The brutal shooting of 20 6- and 7-year-old schoolchildren in their own classrooms touches all of us, and as the father of two young boys I’m especially struck by the way it touches parents: from the heartbreak of the parents in Newtown to the tears in the eyes of Barack Obama as he responded—not just as the president but also as the father of two daughters—to the faces of the first responders and reporters who are parents. I have felt the pain and seen the look on the face of every parent I have talked with since this horrendous event occurred. Virtually every mother and father in America has turned their grieving gaze on their own children, realizing how easily this could have happened to them.

The day after the Connecticut massacre, my wife, Joy, and I went to our son Jack’s basketball game. The kids on the court were the same ages as the children who were killed. I kept looking at them one by one, feeling how fragile their lives are.

Our first response to what happened in Newtown must be toward our own children: To be so thankful for the gift and grace they are to us. To be ever more conscious of them and what they need from us. To honor the grief of those mothers and fathers in Connecticut who have so painfully lost their children, we must love and attend to ours in an even deeper way.

But we really can’t honestly just tell our children that they are safe. This year, children have been randomly shot in their schools, in movie theaters, at malls, and on street corners across the nation—places that any of our kids could be at any time. Our children are not safe.

This crisis will not be solved until we begin a national conversation about what will keep our children safe in this country, at least more safe than they are today.

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