Last Friday I woke up, and, of course, first thing, stumbled to the kitchen to push the “on” switch on my coffeemaker. Only as I reached for the switch, I realized something wasn’t right. There was water pooling on the counter. Under the tray the coffeemaker sits on. Dripping from behind the kitchen cabinet. Moisture clearly evident inside that cabinet (the one holding my great-grandmother’s etched drinking goblets that I adore).
Fast forward to today, and I’m attempting to work from home while water mitigation team removes the cabinet and disconnects the dishwasher and breaks through drywall to the wet mess behind it all.
Y’all, I don’t do well with this sort of thing. Not. At. All. My kitchen table is covered with dishes and glasses. My kitchen itself is a damn mess. And there’ll be a lot of home insurance red tape and a deductible to deal with in the days ahead.
I should be freaking out. And honestly, I kinda am. But also? I’m oddly okay. Sort of. I mean, big picture. This is a giant and expensive pain, but it is NOT a crisis.
I say these words to my darling girl a lot (and to myself)–anytime there is a missed homework assignment or a forgotten library book or spilled chocolate milk.
This is not a crisis.
Most things aren’t. Because we will, somehow, figure it all out. Because we have to.
See, here’s the thing: perspective is everything. Every. Thing. And last Friday morning, as the water dripping in registered and I realized that I had a very big problem on my hands, I also, quickly and with great clarity, thought to myself, “No has died here. No one is sick or injured. I am upright. Breathing. And this home is safe, albeit damaged from winter ice and storm.”
And then I thought, “My child was not murdered at her school this week.”
THAT is my plumb line, y’all. That my daughter was not murdered at her school this week. THIS is the brutal truth of these days we are living (while some are dying).
Let me be real clear real quick. I’m not about to rage about guns or mental health or video games or a general culture of violence or any of that. The field of public discourse on these things is so impossible to enter into with any practical solution that I can’t even find words right now. And maybe that’s because I suspect that there isn’t any one issue–but all the issues. It’s complex. And many-layered. And we’re scared and angry and sad and it’s going to be a long haul back to sanity.
Let me also say this: My greatest concern, hands down, is not any of the things we are arguing about. My single greatest concern is that no one is publicly asking what I believe to be the most important question of all, and that is, “Why are our children so lost and angry and alone that their first response is to kill each other?”
Why our kids? Why our schools? Why is this the chosen canary-in-the-mine screaming at us that something is very, very wrong with our world?
There are obvious answers–kids tell the truth, one way or the other. And kids express themselves–harmfully if not given another way. And we have taught them that violence is okay…or at least acceptable.
But it’s more than that. It’s deep. Rooted in a fear and grief I desperately wish I could name or understand because our children are dying and we can’t figure out how to stop their pain. This is my heartache. This is my deep sorrow.
One dear to me says that sometimes he can’t bring up what’s eating at him, what’s breaking his heart–that sometimes the pain and sadness are just too deep and he can’t find words for it.
Y’all, we’ve got to bring up what’s eating at our children such that we’re losing them. And there is no one solution. There is only being willing to walk into the scary spaces of our life together and say, “Ok, can we agree that this is awful? And on that place of accord find a way forward?”
Extremists on all sides will deny us this space. Such is the way of extremism. But extremism–of any kind and from any ideology–does not get the last word here. It simply doesn’t. Not if we want our kids to make it out alive.
Right now, there’s some sort of giant blow-dryer set up in my kitchen. It’s loud. Constant. And I am not sure how I’m going to survive its presence the next 24 hours, even as I know it is doing the very good work of drying out my house. It also tells me that something is wrong–or at least, has been (read: a leaky roof!).
And somehow, right now, it reminds me something else is wrong, too: our kids are screaming for help. Asking us to be better at being human beings. Begging for us to pay attention and love them and keep them safe. Whatever it takes. And for the love of their precious, holy and unbelievably good hearts, we have got to find a way.
Past politics, past our ideological corners, past socioeconomics, past everything else that we choose to let divide us…we have got to find a way to help our children cry out their pain and then pull them close and tell them, “We’ve got you. We’re going to figure this out. It’s going to be okay.”
And isn’t that all any of us want, really? In the midst of disaster or heartache or financial challenge or broken relationship or difficult parenting moments or just hard-as-hell days…someone to say, “I’ve got you. We’re going to figure this out. It’s going to be okay.”
All I’m asking is that we set aside everything else and say this to our children. And mean it. And then live it out. It is the very, very least we can do.
Find a kid this week–even if you don’t have one at home or nearby–find a kid. Look her or him in the eyes, and say, “You matter. You are loved. I care about what happens to you.” Do it.
I’m not suggesting this will fix it all–we’re way past any sort of easy answer. But I swear to you, if it makes a difference in one life–just one–it will have mattered.