I've started no fewer than six posts and have been unable to finish any of them. Every time I start something new - trivial or relevant - something awful floods the news once more and makes my previous post feel woefully outdated or feeble and useless.
The latest of these events, of course, is the Florida school shooting. The 17th school-related shooting in 2018. A year that has had only 51 days so far. It is the 300th school shooting since 2013.
I don't even know where to begin. I've been writing a mammoth essay about mass shootings for two full years now. It's not an easy one for me to work on - I become infuriated and wrecked in equal measure. And, of course, mass shootings happen so frequently now that every time I get close to finishing a version of this essay... there are new stats to add.
I don't really know how to write about this anymore. I don't know if you need to hear more about tragedies - to rail against them with me - or if you need to read something that brings your mind elsewhere. I don't know what to do with myself anymore. I don't know how to send my kids off to school each day without terror clinging to the back of throat. I don't know how to say, "Have great day, guys! I love you!" when what I really mean is, "Please no shootings at your school today, please, please, please. Please stay alive."
It's a familiar theme over the past year. Standing, mouth slack and arms hanging, wondering what to do. Because there is just so much to do.
I'm still trying to write about it - I had a little prose poem published over at Luna Luna Magazine after a dream I had the night after the shooting. I'm trying to talk about it. To change minds when and where I can and to find real solutions that I can help push through. I'm trying to do my part, calling Congress members and House reps, signing up for whatever actions need backing. I'm trying. I'm sure you're trying, too.*
But I am also trying hard to remember why I'm doing all of this. I am looking at my children, these little crazy humans in my house, and I am watching them. They are watching me react to all of this. They are watching my tears fall as I ask them about their lockdown drills and where they hide. They are hearing about the school shootings. They are watching all of us react. And we need to know how to respond. It's not easy.
So as I formulate different answers for them, explaining why it is so very important that they listen to their teachers during lockdowns and active shooter drills, I try to prepare for the next level questions. I try to prepare for the day that they ask me, "Mom? Why aren't people helping us? Why won't our government make laws to save us? Why does this keep happening?" Because I don't have a good answer for those questions. I don't want to say to my kids, "Some people feel their guns are more important than your lives. And some people don't see the point in trying to save you."
So instead, I try to teach them not to grow up that way. I try to teach them to love other people. To have empathy. To consider how their actions affect others. I teach them what guns do and why it is important to treat them with caution and respect. I teach them how to be in the world with other people and how to disagree without violence. I teach them to accept rejection without lashing out. I teach them to respect women.
These are small drops in the bucket. But if all of us contribute small drops, the bucket will eventually overflow. Small steps are still steps, and small steps made by many are powerful.
As we bake cakes together during their mid-winter break, as we have movie nights and play board games and plan play dates and read stories, we also talk about the power of taking care of each other. We talk about how to grow up and become a person who cares about the world, about the people around them, about the impact of their actions. We leave little gifts for the neighbor with the cold. We write letters. We video-chat with far away family. It is these little connections, these small drops, that I hope can make a difference.
I am grownup, and I have big work to do to try to help my children. To try to protect them when our government will not. But my most important job - my most lasting job - is to ensure that my kids grow up to value human life above a weapon. To ensure that when my kids see pain or suffering, they do what they can to help. To ensure that my kids do what they can to make the world better and don't look out only for themselves.
Small drops, I keep thinking. Small drops add up.
If you're also standing, mouth slack and arms hanging, wondering what to do... small drops, my friends. If we can make even small progress together, we can make progress.
* If you're not sure how to help, consider donating time or money to one of the following organizations and follow them to find out about direct actions you can take to help protect our kids and our schools: