How we live together
Over the weekend, I read the following at a memorial for Newtown, Connecticut:
Much of the conversation about the children and teachers in Connecticut, behind doors and on the radio and even in religious settings, has wavered between absolute grief and calls for stricter gun controls. I am a mother who has cried a lot over the last few days and has signed several petitions calling for restrictions on access to guns. I’ve hugged my child a great deal and have refused to get angry even when he does annoying things. I’m just glad he’s alive. I’ve meditated a lot on what it means to be a parent, how being in love with my three-year-old has anchored me to the world.
As a parent, I feel that loving someone so deeply helps me to transcend isolation. I’ve never felt more connected to another person. When Gabrielle asked me to speak tonight, I thought about how we can hold each other when we’re grieving, how life that is meaningful is life that is connected to other people. It’s why it is important that we gather together to grieve. It’s why we step out and support laws that help to keep us safe. It’s why we pray for and support all of the families that lost their children and mothers and sisters in the tragedy that took place on Friday.
I can’t help thinking a lot about Adam Lanza’s mother, about neighbor’s quotes about not really knowing her, about stories that people didn’t come into her home, about the lack of connection that Adam had to his classmates, even his brother. I keep thinking about how isolated he was, they were, mother and son. And I think about how much effort it takes to extend ourselves to people, to bridge loneliness, to build community.
Like most parents right now, I feel utterly helpless. There are, to be sure, actions that I can take, like being utterly present for my son, and lobbying my elected representatives for stricter gun controls, and advocating for expanded resources to treat mental illness. But I feel like the real work, the long-term heart-and-soul work, is to connect to the people who live around me, to bridge the isolation that comes with our modern, busy lives; that comes with the fears and anxieties that structure so much of our day-to-day. It’s not easy for me, but I feel like that is the spiritual work, going forward. I pray for the families who are grieving. And I pray that we all might learn how to live more deeply, in greater connection to each other.
Image: Magnus Forrester-Barker, Creative Commons.