"Be kinder than necessary - for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle" - for the last 4 years that I was in the work force this quote was at the bottom of every email I sent out. For the last 5 days this quote has run like a broken record in my brain . . .
In the days since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I have been contemplating many things. I have great empathy for all of the victims and their families, friends, and community. My heart could just break for them and I pray that they will find peace during this extraordinarily difficult time.
My mind has been somewhat stuck on another issue though. I've been thinking about the shooter and his mother. I know very little about either one of them because I am trying very hard not to spend too much time listening to the media coverage of this. Just the fact that the mother owned guns makes her world very, very different than mine. My children are loveable, lovely people and I have never had to experience what it is like to have a child who is tormented and void of hope like this young man was.
Please do not think that I am defending this horrible act. What my mind has been stuck on is this: do I practice equal opportunity kindness? Or - am I kinder to the lovely than I am to the unlovely. This shooter was by all observation an unlovely person. If I had encountered him during my daily activities would I have been kind to him? Maybe I would have ignored him because I didn't know how to deal with him. If he had been in one of my children's class at school would they have made him feel cared for or shunned?
As parents we do not want our children to be hurt - especially emotionally. Our hearts bleed for them when they are hurt or rejected by others. I can only imagine HOW MANY TIMES this shooter was shunned and rejected by others. I wonder when it started. I wonder if he had any happy memories from his childhood. I wonder if other children tried to be kind to him and he didn't have the skills to accept their kindness. I wonder what his family life was like. I wonder how many people - friends, family or professionals tried to help him. I wonder when he lost hope . . .
It seems like we don't even try to be kind any more. A lack of civility and a general hatefulness permeates our media and politics. This is what we hear day in and day out. The people we elect to lead us refuse to compromise and work together. Much of the media coverage involves pundits who spew hateful and generally inaccurate words as if they were facts. I can't help but think that this type of behavior (combined with our glorification of violence) trickles down to us and to our children. We are teaching hatefulness on a daily basis.
It is hard for me as a mature, educated, moderately successful adult to deal with this barrage of hatefulness. What must it be like for those who are not so fortunate as I? How is it that we act this way, go to movies where hundreds are killed, buy/play video games where the more people you kill the higher your score, etc., then wonder why some individuals develop in psychopathic ways. Is our lack of civility contributing to their inner torment and manifesting itself in actions like these?
I don't know if I am right or wrong about this. One thing I know for sure is that how we treat others matters. Kindness is the right thing to do. It is good for me. It is good for the person I am being kind to.
What I am taking from this horrible event is a renewed commitment to being kinder than necessary. Will you join me?