What happened in Newtown, Conn. cannot be explained. All over America and indeed, the world, people are shaking their heads in sorrow and anger and horror. The act was unspeakable. Nothing can be said that will lighten the burden for anyone. We are numb. We are angry. We are at a loss for words. And we can only ask questions.
I sat in church this morning thinking about those school children as I listened to our own children’s choir sing. I watched them concentrate as their choir director passionately led them through their songs. I watched the woman’s face as she accompanied them on her flute. I watched a congregation sit in complete silence.
I remember hoping that the children had been spared the knowledge of what happened in Newtown. I could see from her face that the flautist had not been spared that knowledge.
I watched my own daughter dance (ballet) in front of the congregation and then up and down the aisles. Her dance was beautiful and she radiated pure joy – at a time when we all need it. I also thought of the foster children she works with and how difficult a life many of them have already had. But then I remembered how hard so many people have worked to improve the lives of foster children.
While I sat there, I imagined I saw a great wall immeasurably high and continuing through the horizon past the limits of my vision. The instant that I saw it, I realized that it was a wall that protects us from evil. Inside the wall, young children sang Advent songs on Sunday and older ones danced ballet. Inside the wall, people protected foster children from their parents who beat and abused them or worse. Inside the wall, neighbors took care of each other and strangers stopped on the side of the road to pull people out of burning cars or just to change tires. Inside that wall, I saw good and I saw light. I saw people like you and me trying our best to help each other but not always succeeding.
I saw that and then I tried to understand how something so terrible could have happened inside our wall. Then I imagined I saw small cracks on our wall – fissures – that failed to prevent what was outside the wall from coming inside. What I saw come through was dark and void of light. And once inside, it spread like a drop of ink on tissue or drops of dye into a beaker of water. What came through the fissures was pure, un-distilled evil.
I understood clearly what I saw. It dawned on me that we did not build that wall; someone else did, but we were tasked to maintain it. And if we were meant to spot those holes in the wall before they leaked, I know we would have and we would have fixed them. But we didn’t see them. And surely we were not supposed to, this time.
I believe that there must be a reason or some kind of explanation. But I don’t know what it is. And I know that I have been protected all my life by an angel perched on my shoulder who has rescued me many times. Why did the angel give me all those passes and not give one of mine instead to one of those children? How did I earn my pass and they did not earn theirs? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right or fair.
When that monster broke through the doors at the school, the angels in heaven wept as they watched and knew what was going to happen. All children go to heaven but they are not supposed to go the way these children did. Is there a message we are supposed to hear? Are we supposed to do more good? Should we reevaluate our priorities? Should we hug our children more and work less? Should we change how we spend our time or who we care for? Should we learn to be better masons, so our wall does not leak? I don’t know. I don’t know. I wish I could give you some answers, but I cannot.