Angels

Surviving Elementary School

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”           ~Susan Taylor

I don’t typically watch the news.  I have a computer and a T.V. without cable, or even basic access.  I stick to Netflix, and I get my teeny bit of “news” from Philip Defranco, on YouTube.  That’s about as much as I can take.  In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to stop watching the news.  I took her advice.  I had, at the time, become overwhelmed, baffled, and distraught over the Shaniya Davis story.

I couldn’t understand how, someone could do that to their daughter.  I couldn’t understand how someone could do those things to a 5 year old.  I was starting to drown in a sea of headlines and news reports of just how evil this world is.

And it is true.  This world can be a very evil place.

I have spent a good chunk of the past few years overwhelmed by an issue that the rest of the world seems underwhelmed about: sexual violence.  Such violence is beyond an epidemic in our world, and repeatedly, our response is victim blaming, and sweeping it under the rug.  It makes me cringe to know that 1 our of 4 girls, and 1 out of 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18.  How do people walk around in their own little bubbles, oblivious of something so heinous?

I don’t know, they just do.

In some of the work I have done, I have teamed with people who had similar experience and ambition, wanting to do something on the matter.  What have I found?  That there are victims out there working toward solving a problem, without even having dealt with the issue in their own lives.  It is like someone with a still gaping and bloody bullet wound trying to fight for gun control.

First, you need to address your own trauma.

The hard part is, no one else is stepping forward to solve the issue.  All of those people who’ve never had to suffer through the trauma have no interest in dealing with something so dark and ugly.

This is just what I have found.

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I look around me, and I see people becoming passionately driven about the issue of guns and asking themselves, “what could of we have done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012?”

I would never venture to claim that this question is not important, pertinent, or should not be asked.  I do, however, think that it is too soon to be torn apart by these issues.  Our hearts are still breaking from what happened, and the details that continue to unfold.  Our stomachs are still twisted by what the children of Sandy Hook must’ve witnessed that day.  Chills are still shooting down our spines to imagine what evil it takes to commit such an act.

How have we allowed this to lead to a divide?  What the survivors need right now, is a community to come together in support around them.  They certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.

Repeatedly, through the past several years we have witnessed tragedy and allowed it to, even for a short time, bring us together in mourning and solidarity.  For the first time in my life, I have witnessed the opposite happen.  That is what breaks my heart now.

I think ALL of us will agree that something has to be done to attempt to prevent these massacres from happening again, no matter what side you’re on.  What that “something” looks like will start to materialize as we work on the matter.  I trust that.

At this point, I don’t care what that “something” is just yet.  I am still far too stricken with grief to start thinking strategy.  Am I alone in this?

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I look at the faces of the victims, and my throat starts to tense.  I hear their stories, and my eyes are filled with tears.  I cannot look at December 14th with a hard heart.  I find peace in my belief that these children are safe and happy now.  I find strength in the stories of heroism in the adults that fought for these kids with their very lives.

I remember too, those who survived, and I give them this message: you can overcome your trauma and live a fulfilling life.  This may be a struggle, but it does not have to defeat you.  This dark moment in your lives can become a place of strength, and a place of motivation.  You are in the thoughts and prayers of so many, and we will still have your hands when the heavy realization hits you of just how blessed you are to have faced and survived a trial that many will never even have to face.

To the rest of us, I say: stand down.  This is not a fight.  We are worn and we are weary.  We have faced far too much as a country this year.  Yes, we must address this issue, but please, for God’s sake, can we take a moment to grieve first?

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To all of us, I plead:  Do not let this destroy us.  We will march forward and we will advocate for the changes necessary to prevent such tragedy in the future, but first allow yourselves to grieve.  Before you stand up to fight, address your own trauma.  Make sure that when your time comes, when your voice rises, that you are in a place where you are strong enough to argue your side.  So many times, I have seen angels fall short here, and lose the drive to carry on.  We can heal.  We can overcome.  But first, we must grieve.

A heart must finish breaking before you can begin to mend it.

It is true that this world can be an evil place, but what is also true is that each of us has the ability to contribute to the good.  If you are going to pour fervently into this world, be sure that what you are pouring is positive.

mended heart

Resources:

Post Traumatic Growth

NY Times PTSD Article

Away Down The River

I swear that death typically doesn’t consume my thoughts most of the time.  The past week has just been a really tough one in that aspect.  Last week, with the suicide of my sister’s old friend, Amanda.  This week, with the suicide of teen blogger, Jamey Rodemeyer.  Tonight I learned that my friend Joda, who I worked with at TGIFriday’s in Asheville several years ago, passed away yesterday.  I guess it was only about a year or less ago, when my friend and I went to visit him at Friday’s.  He was complaining of a strange pain, and we both urged him to see a doctor.  I was moving out of town, but my friend assured me that she’d stay on top of him to get it checked out.  Not long after, he was diagnosed with lymphoma.  Then tonight, Troy Davis, a man convicted of the 1989 murder of an off duty police officer was put to death, after many desperate attempts to save his life since new evidence and witness recants seemed to disprove his guilt.  I’ve been sitting alone tonight, frustrated and in tears.  I almost feel like the world is losing its angels in rapid succession.  I clicked on a friend’s link, that led me to a site about tribute tattoos.  Then I started reading about the woman they are a tribute to…  Her name is Sara, and she is a fellow blogger.  Her blog inspired hope in many people, and the tattoo tributes said simply “choose joy.”  I read about the tributes, and a little about Sara.  I don’t know much, but I’m certainly interested from what I’ve seen, in reading more of her blog.  The past few entries have been written by someone named Shannon, who is updating on Sara’s worsening physical condition, with the theme of “choose joy” remaining throughout.  I’m leaving early in the morning to head to the mountains, so that I may attend Joda’s memorial service.  I even considered leaving tonight and going to watch the sun rise on the parkway alone.  It is so still, so calm up there, that it feels like the world just stops and you can finally get a chance to breathe.  I definitely need a chance to breathe right now.

Tonight, I’ve felt a consistent twinge of heartache for the losses of the past week, but when I really thought of Joda, and I could hear his voice, it made me smile every time.  Tonight, I’m praying for everyone and their losses, that Amanda has found peace and her family starts to heal… That Jamey’s life and death, can open our eyes, and drastically change the way we deal with bullying… That Troy’s family and friends can find solace in the hope that he has gone somewhere far more just than this world, somewhere in which truth is pursued and upheld.  I pray Joda is in heaven, clad in white, dancing and singing… happy as can be.  I hope Sara transitions smoothly, and that her message spreads far, like ripples atop oceans, reaching from from distant shore to distant shore.

“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand;

the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”  

~George Elliot