I also tend to have high anxiety and extreme sympathy. What this means is, I don't watch the news. The only time I ever did was in the mornings before school, as we were all getting ready. I would catch snippets here and there, and occasionally get wrapped up in a story about some rescued animal or teenage hoodlum. But after one of those days you write numerous essays about, I came home from 6th grade and called my mom to ask about the numerous flags at half-mast that we passed driving back from school. She said one simple sentence and told me to turn on the news, and to not let my sister McKenna, who was at that time 5, see any footage. Ciara, then 8, and I watched footage of dusty firefighters and demolished buildings in a city I always dreamed of living in one day.
Things have changed in the last 11 years. I don't want to live in New York. People stopped saying "God Bless America." And I refuse to watch the news. If something's that important, people will be talking about it, and I'm bound to hear it from my friends or family or Facebook. Maybe this makes me ignorant. But when I hear about things that interest me, or when I need to vote on issues, I do my homework and read the necessary articles. But I avoid news clips like the plague.
Maybe it runs in my family. We often joke that my grandma will cry [tears of joy] when they open a new Wal-Mart. And Nicholas often teases me for crying while browsing Netflix. (Ok, guys, it's not that bad.) For whatever reason, when I see a person crying, either a friend face-to-face or an actor on a tv show, I'm bound to tear up. And trust me, I've spent years trying to master the art of wiping the corners of my eyes with a cardigan or blaming it on my allergies or simply blinking the tears away, but I still fail. And I might as well give up at this point. Let's face it: you're talking to the girl who gets sympathy nerves for everyone else's BFA defense (yet somehow I was completely calm for my own). Those humiliating moments that awkward freshmen experience in high school--I always felt embarrassed for them (and completely fine with my own blunders). Maybe some kind of doctor would tell me there's something totally wrong with me or I'm projecting my own blah blah blah, but really, it's not such a bad thing in the end. Too many people don't care enough. I just make up for them.
On Friday morning, the posts and links about Connecticut made the rounds on Facebook. I read article after article about people looking for answers and speculating this and that. And even though I take just about everything nowadays with a grain of salt, there were some facts that were consistent: that in some charming New England town that everything thought was as safe as could be, 27 people were killed in a shooting at an elementary school, and among those 27, 20 of them were first graders, just 6 and 7 years old.
Mia is in first grade. She's 6 and a half.
And immediately, as I read the headlines (obviously crying), I thought about the other children in that school: the ones who watched their best friends die, the ones that witnessed their teachers murder, the ones that heard the shots that they would learn killed their siblings. I thought about the first responders that will probably find it hard to sleep and impossible to forget such a scene. I thought about the parents, unsure about their children's safety. And I thought about the people in Oregon who, earlier that same week, experienced a shooting at a mall. Their community gets shaken up, and just 3 days later they have to relive it again.
Really, I tend to hate politics for the same reason I tend to hate the news: both leave me incredibly depressed and hopeless. So I'm not going to lecture about what should or shouldn't be done, because honestly, I don't know anymore. Let's face it: I'm an artist. I can't design safer schools. I can't push legislation. I can't do a lot of things, and I don't even know what I would do if I could. So situations like these leave me feeling pretty helpless. But besides being an artist, I'm also a Catholic--the kind that still goes to church on Sundays and holy days and celebrates Jesus' birth and feels guilty about just about everything. So I can pray. And maybe that sounds like nothing. A lot of days it feels like it, too. When you're in chronic pain, the last thing you want to hear from your mom is, "Well, say a rosary." But whether or not you know God is real, prayer tends to help you re-focus. Like every other kid, I know I've prayed that Santa would bring me my favorite toy, or that Jesus would help me *magically* do well on a test I didn't study for in the least. But at some point, your list of requests starts to sound selfish, and your pleases turn to thank-yous. Maybe our culture needs more thank-yous. Maybe it's as simple as that. But probably not.
So I'll tell you what I do, and what I did, on days like this. I prayed for everyone that needed it. And they'll probably never know that some weird art girl in the midwest who cries over everything prayed for them. But that's one more person in the world letting God in, keeping evil out, and thinking about someone besides herself for just a little while. And none of that is really a bad thing. And when Mia came home from school safely I hugged her perfectly safe little body. And when she overheard someone talking and asked about the other first graders who were hurt, I kissed her perfectly safe forehead and told her that sometimes people need extra prayers.