Sunday, 16 December 2012

Comfort Each Other With Dialogue

Like many of you, I've been in a daze since Saturday morning when I first woke up and learned about the tragedy in Newtown.  For me, this one hits close to home.  I grew up two towns away from Newtown, and as a kid, I often went there with my family to my mom's favorite garden center.  My daughter is a kindergartner, and watching her play with her friends at a birthday party on Saturday, I thought about the families of those "beautiful children" who won't ever have that opportunity again.  My wife and I are teachers, and as I learn about the heroic actions of the principal and teachers at Sandy Hook, I wonder if we would have the same courage given a similar set of circumstances.  Finally, I have mental illness in my family, and I'm disheartened that this remains a silent stigma in our culture.

While I don't pretend to have any answers nor am I trained to give any advice, I can't help but think how important dialogue is in the wake of this tragedy.  For at its core, dialogue is when we share our feelings and listen to others.  It is what makes us human.  It is what connects us.   It is what we need in the coming days and weeks ahead.

First and foremost, I'm having dialogue with those close to me.  I've been reading reports, checking my social network sites, following blogs, skyping with family members, and writing down my own thoughts and reflections.  In doing so, I've been able to grieve alongside others even though they are miles away.  I've sat down with my fourth grader to share the news with her and allow her to process it and ask questions before she hears about it from someone else.  In short, I've needed to share my feelings and listen to others.  

Next, I anticipate that communities in the US and around the globe will have more dialogue.  I'm sure they'll follow up on the latest safety and security measures, but I also hope that they'll discuss matters of the heart.   We need to ask ourselves questions such as these:  Is every child loved, cared for, or accepted in our community?  How can each one of us contribute to creating a welcoming and nurturing community for all?  How can we help those who seem disconnected or "remote?"   Doesn't being "safe" and "secure" begin with a sense of belonging?  As a community, we need to share our feelings and listen to others.  

Finally, I hope that there will be dialogue at the national level.  In recent years, politics has become more and more divisive, and it seems like politicians have spent more time drawing lines in the sand than sitting down to have the hard discussions.  Whether it's the fiscal cliff or gun control, the strength of our democracy depends on politicians being able to not only share their feelings, but also listen to each other so they can move toward creative problem solving. As members of a democracy, we also have a duty to share our feelings with them so that we are heard.

It comes as no surprise that on Friday night, on the very same day of the senseless shooting, hundreds of local residents gathered at places of worship to be together and comfort each other with dialogue.  We need to follow their lead by sharing our feelings and listening to those dear to us, to those in our community, and to those who represent us so that nothing like this ever happens again.

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