Two things happened today which took me to the extremes of sorrow and delight. One was the tolling of the bells all around the country in remembrance of the lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School a week ago. The other was a lunch meeting with my Books Around the Table friends and fellow writers, and the realization once again that I am so, so lucky to know them and to spend time in their creative company.
From grief to gladness in just a few hours. It’s hard to keep our balance in today’s world, isn’t it? Extremes like this – too many of them casting deep shadows – bring into relief the complicated outlines of our lives.
Maybe this wide swing of the pendulum began yesterday, when I went to The Hutch School in Seattle (a public K-12 school sponsored by The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center) to talk with the students about what being a writer is like. As wonderful as the visit was – filled by the kids’ tremendous energy and their capacity & desire to share stories – I was unglued upon arrival to realize that I had to be “buzzed in.” Security measures don’t allow people to walk in off the street, and this was the first time I experienced such a precaution. The whole time I talked with the kids, I saw their eager faces and felt the weight of the year 2012 and the Newtown shootings pressing down on me. When I was in first-grade in 1954, I’m quite sure no one – from administrators down to kindergartners – thought even once about whether they were secure from “intruders” in their own school building.
The more light the kids at The Hutch offered up to me, the darker I felt inside. Hard to handle, hard to process, these extremes. I came home mid-afternoon and went straight to bed.
The idea of addressing this sadness of mine in my last blog post of the year made me hesitate. After all, the holiday season is a time of celebration, and the coming New Year’s Day is a time of hope. And our blog is about writing books for children, not about political or social policy. But I found that the need to express my feelings here, in this blog, overwhelmed my hesitations. I believe strongly that writers for children have a responsibility to be advocates for children as well. No matter what solutions you feel are appropriate to our problem with guns in America – and that problem is huge – I hope you will write to your representatives and senators and urge them to be brave and to enter into the search for solutions. It doesn’t take long to compose a quick letter to your elected representatives. And not long at all to email it. Barely more than it takes a bell to toll 26 times.
Julie, you’ll be happy to hear that when I opened my email to find this post, I also found a reply from my US senator, Barbara Boxer in response to my letter to her regarding gun safety and schools. She laid out a 5-point multi-approach plan that she is dedicated to following. Yes, We the People must take action and write our congressional leaders to let our voices be heard.
Thanks, Terry – good to hear. If anyone wants to read Boxer’s thoughts on this issue, here’s the link:
It is a special privilege for an author or illustrator to talk to students about books and the power of words to stimulate the imagination, entertain, educate, even to scare a little. Dare we imagine that we and our books will inspired some children to become wordsmiths themselves? Have aspirations to be come known for the power and excellence of their own writing?
Unfortunately, as long as the media publicise the name of mass killers and totals killed, there will be some mentally unstable person who will try to kill even more and gain the status of ‘worst’ in history.
I am writing this from Australia. We have had people who have gone out on a shooting spree, too. In his early life, one perpetrator was sexually abused by a teacher at a school where I taught 20 years ago. The child was not at the school when I was there – but the teacher was. Should I and others have recognised earlier what was going on? Would it have saved many lives? It was only 15 years after the teacher was dismissed that I discovered the real reason.
There is no perfect or simple answer, but, too often I think, many of us become so busy we really don’t get to know the people in our businesses and neighbourhoods. We can’t live lives in regret or remorse, we all do our best and make decisions for what appear to be valid reasons at the time, but I’m sure we all have a tendency to pre-judge and classify people and choose to avoid some …who have the potential to become loners …who may… rather than to discover if we can help. And some people we can’t help, and all countries’ mental health services seem understaffed and under resourced.
I hope you and all your blog readers have a wonderful Christmas and New Year filled with Love, Joy and Peace …or whatever other Feast is celebrated.
This is lovely. And important. And … I just have no other words, except I’m glad that you got to go home and lie down. Truly. It’s hard to process sometimes, isn’t it? The extremes. That makes total sense to me.
Action is all. Thank you, Julie.
A beautiful, brave post, Julie. So critical as we strive to make sense of the world for our children by giving them stories and voices.
As always, wise and thoughtful, Julie.
I wonder if there is a way to affect those who will be writing a different letter to their elected officials. If each of us could reach out to those with whom we disagree. If each of us could gently influence just one person . . .