Friday, October 6, 2017

The News Today

This was written as a column for my local paper just a few hours after the shootings in Las Vegas.
I offer it as a post for this blog with a heavy heart but not one without hope for the future....XO

Ironically, my topic for this week’s column was going to be about my recent hijinks at a casino. 

A venue I so rarely visit, I found myself developing a sore elbow in front of a slot machine during a family get-together in Saratoga Springs, New York. It was a wonderful weekend.

But, this very morning, we all awoke to more terrible news. And, as residents so very close to the site of another horrific massacre, we had no choice but to revisit the all-too familiar feelings of anxiety, fear and sorrow. My original topic was no longer appropriate…and my weekend was, virtually, forgotten.

This column is not going to be about gun control vs. the Second Amendment and the many variations upon those themes (not that I don’t have my opinions). I can only wax on about the issues we face today as sentient beings in an increasingly unmoored society--the growing number of worries that jockey for position in our overwhelmed brains…the apprehension that accompanies our every waking step, often trailing into our subconscious at night.

I wish I had some lovely optimism to fluff on about here. That’s hard to muster not 24 hours after this tragedy. Originally unaware of where this nightmare unfolded and making sure none of my kids were in the vicinity, I was able to calm my pounding heart only to remind myself of the parents whose children just wanted to enjoy a concert and are never coming home.

Right after the Newtown shooting, while bathed in anxious grief and rage, I spotted a small hand-lettered sign stuck into the ground outside of Target, visible to those waiting in line at the light. It simply read “Good things happen, too.” It made me burst into tears yet it also made me feel better.

I recently read about one of my favorite celebrities, Mr. Rogers. A man as kind and sweet in private as the persona he embodied on his television show, he shared something his mother said when he was little. She’d told him that, in times of crisis, to always “look for the helpers.” There will “always be helpers,” she advised. That made him feel safer and when I read it, it made me feel safer, too.

We all value our “first responders” as we now call them. There was a bunch of fireman shopping in a local supermarket last week and I watched them appreciatively, happy even to be near them. Fred Rogers’ mother understood long ago how these “helpers” make such a difference to us all. To say we “thank” them is an understatement. We deeply love them. The “helpers” were there last night.

Just today, I had a conversation with a customer service rep named Evelyn after placing an order. While she clicked about on her computer, we discussed what had happened in Las Vegas. Both parents, at first we fretted together about the usual things parents fear most. Afterward, Evelyn wistfully recalled a time where people were comfortable about disagreeing with one another, family was strong, we weren’t muzzled by the very extreme end of the political correctness spectrum and the internet didn’t pollute minds and indoctrinate people into evil. We were both very sad, concluding our exchange with a sincere wish for each other’s peace and safety (plus, she adjusted my shipping charges). Evelyn was a philosopher with a headset, solving the trivial dilemmas of shoppers and pondering life. Like all of us.

So, while I have no words and my balm will be cat videos and phone catch-ups later with my kids, I send love to you all as well as prayers for the apparent impossibility that people practice love instead of hate. But nothing is impossible--isn’t that what they say?

Maybe if we can achieve this, one household at a time, things will look up a bit. Maybe it will even catch on. And if you’d like to discuss all this with Evelyn, I can get you her number. I think she’d be happy to hear from you.

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