The tragic sadness of today leaves most of us speechless, especially because it involves so many young children, and because it comes just days after a shooting closer to home in a mall in Portland. A mall, a school, a few months ago, a temple. All places everyday people go everyday, and where they usually feel safe. Young friends who are parents have posted their compassion, shock, and anger on face book. I am sad that as parents they now have to think, “could this happen to my child, at our school?” We all think of children, teachers, people we love whose lives, ages, work place are not unlike that of the victims. With compassion we think of the tragedy that a son, someone’s child, was so disturbed that he killed his parents, then turned the gun on others and himself.
The arguments and blaming have begun about gun control, mental health care, both complex, multifaceted issues, but to me the larger issue is how we value children as a culture, a society. From TV programs and music that teach and desensitize young people to violence, to the growing incidents of domestic violence, as a culture we do not cherish children in a manner that makes them so precious no one would think of harming them. Today’s tragedy is a situation where a broken adult-child committed a heinous act that has left many children dead and traumatized.
I know most people do feel children are precious and special, but we must be proactive to change those aspect of our society that counter our personal values.
I’ve had the joy of watching friends and family raise children who were indeed cherished, but a life time in social work, including working with those with psychiatric problems, has given me more than enough exposure to the damage done when a child is not loved, respected, and treated as the Divine gift he or she is.
The greatest way to honor those who have been killed, and those whose lives have been changed forever, is not to let the incident, nor the person who did the killing, invoke fear and paranoia, but rather to let the incident invoke a heightened awareness that every child we see, whether we know them or not, deserves our smiles, our love, our kindness, our concern. If you view every child you encounter with a deep sense of personal responsibility for them, you contribute to them feeling precious, and perhaps that child will grow to be a person who will change how we value children.
There are cultures we consider ‘primitive’, or ‘underdeveloped’ whose attitudes toward children make our cultural values toward children seem barbaric.
Endless prayers to those who have suffered today.