“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
When I had just turned 15 years old, my parents and I moved to Connecticut from Tennessee. I was in the middle of my freshman year of high school. The high school I leftmhad only been open one year: it was shimmery, people knew me, our school colors were a cheerful yellow and light blue. My parents, in an effort to get me excited about our new home, brought me the magazine from the high school I would attend. That high school’s colors were orange and black. I cried for an entire afternoon. Who looks good in orange?
However, move we did. This my third move in my lifetime. There I was at the bus stop in a fake rabbit fur coat, frosted pink lipstick, my impossibly frizzy (before there were hair straighteners) hair and a brash southern accent. It was there I met my first Connecticut friend.
This friend, whom I have been friends with now for many years, has a son who attends the school in Sandy Hook. He is safe.
However, his friend was buried two days ago. I have opinions about gun control and mental health and many things, but what I want to talk about is resiliency. Today, I heard the voice of one of the fathers who lost a child talk about driving with his daughter and showing her ribbons people tied in memory of those killed in Newtown. He said he thought of all those people’s kind wishes, about each hand tying the ribbon. This is a description for the great capacity of the heart. The ability we have as humans to allow pain to open us, humble us – even change us.
I think grief can offer clarity of vision, a striping away of the less important things in life. A willingness to be present to all of the human experience – not simply the things we like or the things that make us feels good. Grief can allow for real compassion, and to me compassion is the ability to know I could be anyone in this story. One of my wiser friends posted in Facebook: “Redoubling my efforts to eradicate all violence from my own heart.” (Thank you, L. W.)
There has been talk about the kids who were at the school growing up with the title of “survivor” of the shootings. There is even a worry that the kid’s identity would be bound up in coming from that school, from this moment in history. I imagine kids who will grow up with a deeper compassion and a willingness to be gentle with others. I see them as role models of resiliency – leaders in the fact that: We are not what happens to us – we are what we do with what happens to us. That is my hope anyway.
I heard John Woodall, M.D. who has been a teacher of resiliency and is the founder of The Unity Project (and who lives in Newtown) be interviewed recently. He said grief is love. So when people talk about “getting over it” they are asking someone to get over their love. He suggested, and I agree, to use grief as a way to show love.
There has been a request to do three kind acts next week in honor of those who died. I am committing to do this. Will you?
Last Friday I happened to be leaving NYC when I heard about the shootings. I was able to go to my friend and we did what I am sure most people did. We cried and were shocked and trying to find answers. We just showed up with each other. We caught up. She showed me pictures, we watched the president, I looked into the eyes of this person who I grew up with and in the midst of this we noted her oldest son is now taller than me. I stayed with another friend nearby who has two sons – her youngest is my godson. We went to a vigil together. There were candles and silence and three children sang "Silent Night." One little girl pointed to my pup and said “Look a doggie!” The weight of the loss was there, along with the light of the kids, the candles and this community reaching towards one another.
Her husband met his son at the entrance and his son walked into his outstretched arms. In the way that the universe is strange, surprising and sweet we were together. It is so easy to be too busy for connection, it is almost fashionable to judge others and yet, and yet, this sadness could be an opening – a way to let the quaking in our hearts be answered by clear love. It means less artifice. it means true, genuine, real, humanity.
Let these children lead us.