Good deeds can help get us through tragic times

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Dec. 20, 2012

Helping out can allow us to reclaim holiday spirit

This being the last column before Christmas, I had this funny little bit planned, in the defense of Christmas carols, that much maligned music genre that pops up earlier and earlier each year.

I walk my kids to school in the mornings, and during this, the most wonderful time of the year, we sing on the way there. My youngest daughter has been leading the caroling lately with favorites “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “O Hanukkah” from her school’s holiday program.

The column was going to be funny and light and possibly a little off key.

And then last Friday, after walking and singing them to school, I went on the Internet to learn that two Memphis police officers had been shot and that one, Martoiya Lang, a mother of four, had died. About the same time, news started coming in about a school shooting in Connecticut that would eventually leave 26 dead, including 20 children.

All of the funny went out of me. All of the music left my voice. What was left was a void and the indescribable urge to see my children, so that I practically ran up to the school at the end of the day.

The acts, of course, are senseless. The fact that they were perpetrated on a mother of four, on the children of so many, is unforgivable. It throws a pall on the most wonderful time of the year, doesn’t it?

That day, though, my kids hadn’t heard the news. We walked home, and while one daughter prattled on about her class’ Christmas party, I heard my 6-year-old, bringing up the rear, singing “Silent Night.”

Silent night, holy night.

Mister Rogers, everyone’s neighbor, once said that when the news was scary, his mother told him to “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,” and urged us to tell our children the same. And we have, my generation, through Columbine and 9/11 and Virginia Tech and every other unthinkable tragedy that comes to us within seconds through today’s technology.

As adults now, and parents, we shouldn’t just look for helpers, but we must also be the helpers. There are people in our community who need help, whether from a sudden, inconceivable act of violence, or through a long season of neglect. This is the time to begin helping, during this most wonderful time of the year.

All is calm, all is bright.

If your child is safe at home today as mine are, sitting on the floor beside the tree in anticipation of next Tuesday, watching SpongeBob, eating a Pop-Tart, making a mess, all of the things I make light of here in this space, be thankful and be gracious. Hold them tightly, and do your best to put that music back into their lives.

As I write this, news is still pouring in fast and furious, and things could change, though not necessarily for the better. More bad could happen between now and the day this runs.

But also a lot of good could happen. That’s up to you, and it’s up to me.

Sleep in heavenly peace, and Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

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