A Heavy Heart

Today is such a sad day. What happened in Newtown today is truly unimaginable. I made it through the rest of my work day, and when I came home from work, I tried to create some peace by turning my Christmas lights on, and lighting a few candles, but I turned on the news and could only watch for about 20 minutes. Eventually, I decided to sit at my computer and try to articulate some of the thoughts and feelings flying around in my head and my heart. I am finding myself trying to balance between surrendering to the deep feelings of sadness and trying to go about my business, resisting wallowing. Neither feels like a healthy choice.

It is deeply troubling to me and many others that these tragedies not only keep happening, but seem to be getting worse. How is that even possible?? What kind of evil would do this to the most innocent, vulnerable humans on earth – young children??  The noise of the endless, constant, media coverage, the Facebook and Twitter messages blasting politicians and the NRA keep coming at me…so I had to turn all of it off to sit and think…and feel.

I rarely watch Oprah’s shows these days, but last Sunday, one of them caught my eye since she was to interview Elie Wiesel about his new book, “Open Heart.” After watching it, I immediately picked the book up the very next day, and finished it in just a few days. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wiesel, he is a Holocaust survivor, philosopher, professor, writer, (best known for his memoir of the Holocaust called “Night”) Nobel Peace Price winner, and founder of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

Just like when I read “Night” a long time ago, his words in “Open Heart”, though haunting, also comforted me when I reread some of it tonight. Here is my favorite excerpt:

“Was it yesterday – or long ago – that we learned how human beings have been able to attain perfection in cruelty? That for the killers, the torturers, it is normal, thus human, to act inhumanely? Should one therefore turn away from humanity?

The answer of course is up to each one of us. We must choose between the violence of adults and the smiles of children, between the ugliness of hate and the will to oppose it. Between inflicting suffering and humiliation on our fellow man and offering him the solidarity and hope he deserves. Or not.

I know – I speak from experience – that even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion. That it is possible to feel free inside a prison…

There it is: I still believe in man in spite of man.”

What happened today is completely overwhelming and can seem utterly, depressingly, hopeless. There are no answers for all of the questions that we have today. But even though it is so painful, we can’t let ourselves become numb to these tragedies that are happening too often. And when we let ourselves feel this pain, we must try to not surrender to despair.

In his interview, Wiesel says that while the world may never learn from the past, each of us as individuals can – and THAT is what matters. The question is not whether humanity will evolve, but will WE as individuals?

So today I am so very sad. My heart literally hurts for the Newtown community, and for everyone affected by what happened today. And I think it is so important to feel the sadness – to name it – and for me to write or talk about it in order to process it. I want to caution us to not brush over what happened and become numb.

Each one of us has an impact in the world we live in – whether within our families, our communities or on a larger platform. In that, we have power and influence. We don’t have to surrender to despair and hopelessness.

I saw a lot of evidence today of people hugging their kids, expressing gratitude for their them and for their teachers. I saw people recognizing healthy doses of perspective. I saw outpourings of prayers for the Newtown community, and for those affected by similar events in the past. One person at a time, we can make a difference – and in that may lie some of the answers we are looking for.

“Think higher. Feel deeper.” – Elie Wiesel