Sometimes life just isn’t funny.
Like most of you, I was just doing my own thing Friday morning, sitting in class while the high school students around me took a test, posting some stupid Facebook status about being high on Benadryl because of a nasty cold I had caught the night before. Then, bored—since everyone was test-taking and completely uninterested in talking to me—I clicked over to Twitter. Scrolled through a couple of statuses. And then came to this one:
“School shooting in small CT town.”
I immediately felt sick…thinking of a high school just like the one I was sitting in…of my oldest son sitting in a classroom a few doors down…of the poor students injured at this other, faraway school…wondering what I would do if a gunman walked in at that very moment and started firing. The scenarios ran through my mind like a movie—quick, scary, nerve-wracking, but precise. Because when you teach at a school, plans for this sort of thing are in place. Lock the door. Hide the kids. Get away from the window. Keep quiet. And on and on and on. I’ve read the guidelines a dozen times. Thought them through at least a dozen more. Because, well, as sad as it is, most school shootings take place in a high school. And that’s what I’m sorta prepared for.
And then I clicked on the link and read the story.
Apparently another kid in class was also reading something similar, because at that same moment—when I was about halfway through the article—I heard his whispered voice. “Guys, there was a school shooting in Connecticut this morning…a kindergarten class… a few teachers…a kindergarten class…”
A kindergarten class.
Needless to say, I was stunned, as were all of the students in class with me. I couldn’t process it. They couldn’t process it. No matter how long we sat there staring at our phones, and then subsequently the television, it just wasn’t process-able.
A kindergarten class. An entire kindergarten class.
It didn’t take me long to start crying. I have a kindergartner. A five-year-old-daughter who, at that very moment, was sitting in her own classroom a few blocks away. Hair in a pony tail. Wearing her pink Twinkle Toes. Probably coloring. Possibly playing with play-dough. Most likely talking. Definitely giggling, because her teacher is so darn funny.
And all I could think of was the innocence. The faith. The complete oblivion to harm. The absolute belief that adults take care of children. And that, all in all—like home and church and the grocery store and the playground—school is a safe place to be.
Somewhere in a small Connecticut town, twenty other children were probably thinking the same thing last Friday morning. And in a few short minutes, everything was shattered. The feeling of safety turned to fear. The happiness turned to confusion. The peace turned to chaos. All because of the anger of one misguided man. Misguided isn’t even the right word, but I just can’t think of any other word to describe it. There isn’t another word to describe it, because frankly, I don’t think any of us ever imagined that something so heinous…so sick and gross and completely depraved…could be carried out by another human being.
I struggled the rest of the day. I wanted to grab my daughter out of school. I wanted to check out all four of my children and head home, to a safe place where we would all be together and where some rage-filled person couldn’t harm them. I considered it. I thought about it all morning. But in the end, I kept them in school and stayed at work. It wasn’t an easy decision. I could not wait to leave.
It wasn’t until the end of the day—when my two youngest children were coming up the front steps, arguing about who won the race home; when my two oldest children walked in from their junior high and high schools an hour later—that it finally hit me.
I had my kids. They were safe. They were happy. They were home. And I could breathe.
But in the back of my mind…in a hidden place tucked deep inside…came a thought. One I don’t like to think about often but still manages to creep up every once in awhile. And in that moment, I heard that annoying little reminder once again.
We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Today might be the last perfect day we have.
I hate that reminder. Sometimes it seems to suck the joy right out of living with its irritating taunt. But it’s true. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Today might be it. I could laugh with my kids and argue with my kids and hug my kids and play with my kids one day. And the next, it could be over.
Friday was a wake-up call. One I’ll likely forget all about in a few weeks because I’m human and life tends to take over eventually no matter my good intentions. But still, it woke me up. It reminded me that I need to enjoy my family more. I need to pray for my kids more. I need to trust God with my kids more. And I need to appreciate the mundane moments more.
Because I don’t want to look back and wish for more time…I don’t want my kids to wish I’d given it to them..
Blessing on all of you—
“Let the little children come unto me…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14