There are all sorts of things that need saying about the (misnamed) “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations, and about Barack Obama’s perfidy pertaining thereto. There was an interesting column to be written about former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s Solomonic but not-entirely-honest report on the New Orleans Saints “bounty” scandal. There was a great story to relate about a particular entrepreneurial story that supports just about everything conservatives say about economics and shows the danger of Obama’s approach. And there’s a plethora of half-formed musings on politics and culture that begged to be written.
Yet it seems insensitive to write about any of that right now while every news show continues to focus so intensely on the school-shooting tragedy in Connecticut. It’s not that this writer can pretend it’s all so horrible as to leave himself too overwrought to think about anything else; it’s just that nothing else seems appropriate — either not important enough, or too divisive, or otherwise somehow lacking in perspective.
Just the night before Adam Lanza’s Connecticut carnage, I attended Prichard Preparatory School’s “Christmas Celebration” just outside of Mobile, Alabama. For a full hour, about 99 young black children and one white child, all dressed immaculately in coats and ties or skirted suits, sang Christmas songs, most of them overtly religious rather than merely holiday-secular, before a church-full of beaming parents, teachers, and supporters. The children seemed truly angelic. The parents were so proud — not just of their own kids, but of every child who stepped forward, individually or in small groups, to perform. Nothing in the world gives more joy than children at their best.
Likewise, for probably 30 years of the past 42, I’ve attended the “Festival of Lessons and Carols” at Trinity Episcopal School in New Orleans. As in most such ceremonies around Christendom, the school children alternate Biblical readings of the Christmas story with favorite hymns, all in a manner combining solemnity and joy in just the right measure. In other forums (alas, no links remain) I’ve told of how the Student Council at Trinity each year votes on which charities will receive the proceeds from the offering plate at the service — and of how, for decades, one of the charities (the collection usually was divided three or four ways) always was the “Village of Good Hope,” an orphanage in Korea, whose proprietor always sent lovely thank-you notes beginning: “Dear Our Esteemed Benefactors.” It always was a point of pride, and deep consideration, for the student leaders to choose where to send the collection.
I just found out today that this year’s offerings will go to defray hyperbaric-oxygen treatment expenses for another victim of a shooting, one Sandy Kaynor, whose wife Grace was a dear friend of mine growing up. Kaynor was shot multiple times on his front porch 11 weeks ago as he stumbled unknowingly into the path of armed robbers who (apparently) randomly chose his car and home to target. Kaynor remains seriously compromised; the attackers have been neither found nor even identified.
Grace always had been active at Trinity Church — in church youth groups, then church young-adult groups, and apparently at the church and school after moving back to New Orleans after years away. Since the shooting, her Facebook page has been a marvel of statements of her continuing, deep faith in a loving God.
An observer doesn’t know what to make of these tragedies. A writer who wants to write on other subjects can’t do so. A friend or parent or supporter considers children murdered, children singing, children reading the Word of God, children choosing to raise money for treatment of a brutally shot parent, and the friend or parent or supporter can only wonder at the capacity of children to love and be loved.
It is their future that hangs in the balance of our political fights. It is their world, bequeathed by the same God whose love Grace Kaynor still touts, that we are saving or ruining.
On her Facebook page last Friday, Grace posted words from a recent message from the Rector of Trinity Church, Henry Hudson. The passage ended thusly: “This is not a spectator sport! We are invited to get in, transforming the world and ourselves, by laughing, crying, struggling, helping, sacrificing to help God win over the lost and hurting.… I love the joy and celebrating of Christmas. Remember those who are hurting, hungry, and sad. Give generously to those you love, and generously to those who need love. Let this generation answer the call to get in the game and make a difference!”
In the midst of sorrow, we can either withdraw from the world, or we can further engage with it in hopes of helping it heal. After an appropriate interval, constructive re-engagement is the only good answer. Let us all create villages of good hope. Let the little children lead us.