My world, my children’s world, is full of heroes.
When my kids start talking about what happened today, that’s the part of the story we’ll focus on: how teachers, the principal, policemen, and volunteer firemen all acted quickly and selflessly to try to save hundreds of kids. I’ll remind them how lucky they are to be surrounded by so many people who would also do whatever it takes to keep them safe: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers, and all those community members we love as much as our family.
My kids came home from school today, like they do all days, laughing and bouncing and chatting rapidly and excitedly with a huge gang of cousins and siblings. They’re carefree and happy. Here, the good stories are winning, and they often crowd out all the negative news. I’m fine with that. My kids know far more good people than bad, and their world is full of far more good than evil. Even though my children live in a world where bad things happen, I don’t want them to live in fear.
We haven’t yet discussed this awful event, and I won’t bring it up until they
do. My kids aren’t immune to tragedy. They’ve already seen too much of it and
I’m sure over the next few days they’ll hear more about this one and have
questions. They’ll know what happened; unfortunately, they do understand the
reality that sometimes we can’t keep everyone safe. I hate that, but we’ll
spend no more time elaborating on those facts and we’ll not discuss the person
responsible. Evil like that deserves no more of our time; it’s stolen too much
from us already.
People are quick to condemn our government, our gun regulations, and our health system. Surely all of that could be improved, but I’m not optimistic any of those types of changes will prevent awful things like this from happening. Throughout my life, I’ve found stories and relationships have always been more powerful than laws. It’s exactly why we don’t need to hear this particular story on repeat everywhere we turn. We’ve given over our storytelling to the media and it’s much too important a position to hand off to social media and networks looking for sensational headlines. I never need to see the face of the people who commit crimes like this and neither do my children. We don’t need to know what he was planning, or the total body counts compared to other massacres, or see documentaries about who he was. I don’t need to know his story. I feel like our country’s obsession with spreading horrific news has been more to blame for the increase in these types of crimes than our too lenient gun laws. People considering horrific things don’t need any more horrific ideas, and they don’t need to see people who commit acts like this getting national fame.
Today’s national tragedy comes at the end of a month of local tragedies, which makes the loss seem even more overwhelming. My community is small—just few hundred people, our whole reservation is only thousands, not even the size of a small city. We’ve had multiple violent murders in the last few weeks and lost some good people to senseless crimes. It’s hard not to feel powerless. It’s hard not to feel like evil is winning.
But we aren’t powerless and I think in times like this, when we get hit with such huge losses, it’s even more important to remember that. It’s important to remind our kids of the truth of that as well. I have hope that our government will support good things, but I find it naive to believe legislation and policy will protect me from people with no regard for basic human life. Laws and policy are also not going to make my elementary school children feel safer. I’ll continue to vote for laws and people I believe in, but laws are for those of us who agree to follow them.
I’ll continue to encourage my kids to be those sorts of people who do follow them. I’ll continue to surround them with good people and continue to remind them how important it is to look out for one another and to be kind to each other, especially to those who are often hard to be kind to. I think we too often underestimate how powerful these simple things can be. When huge tragedy happens everyone cries for huge changes; I think it makes more sense to start with small ones. One of my favorite ideas is Ella Deloria’s suggestion to, “Be related, somehow, to everyone you know.” We need to spend more energy paying more attention to the people we see everyday. I think establishing connections and awareness can be more effective than implementing more systems filled with people with no background with or connection to the people they’re being paid to help.
I’ll continue to encourage my children to pay attention, to be a part of the community where they live. And I’ll continue to tell them stories of people who are brave and strong and selfless. We’ve had many great leaders in this country who’ve made hard choices that have made our lives better and who have made huge sacrifices for others. My children have family members who have done the same. It’s these stories they need to be familiar with.
And even in our horrific local tragedies, that piece of the story is there. We live among brave men, real heroes, who when confronted with evil, will give everything to protect others. Those are the people we need to remember. Theirs are the lives worth knowing. Honor and courage and loyalty and selflessness aren’t just lofty ideals and people who believe in them and act according to them aren’t just the stuff of fairy tales.
They’re the only real protection we have.