Today was my kids’ Christmas concert.
I’ve always loved it. Yeah, it’s an hour an half in a hard wooden chair with the occasional screaming baby beside you. But there’s so much I love. The intake of breath when I see my kids enter the gym. Stretching, craning to catch their eye. The grin we both get when we find each other. Seeing their sparkling eyes, the look of concentration to remember the words to their songs. Watching their friends, the kids I’ve known since they were in diapers, turning to the corner from cute to beautiful.
The act of gathering at a school took on gravity, this year.
The principal started the program by referring to the events in Connecticut last week. The same principal who I have seen being incredibly tough in the face of all manner of adversity was choking on tears, and how could she not be? The whole thing has been so hard to process as a parent: I can’t begin to imagine the toll it has taken on educators. The tears started to make a dark pool on my shirt as she asked for (and got) a moment of silence.
Out trooped a class of kids in Santa hats. Kids the exact same age as the ones who were murdered. Five and six year olds are always adorable. But since last weeks shootings, these kids seemed to nearly brimming over with cute and hope and light and flat out good.
“Same age as the kids in Connecticut” comments the woman behind me.
“Everyone is still stuck on that. Meanwhile, in inner-cities, kids get shot every day and no one cares” says the twenty-something beside her.
I am so sick of this.
In the intervening week, I have heard this. Millions of kids die in wars, and we do nothing. Kids are starving to death, many more kids than were shot at Sandy Hook.
Why does one tragedy have to trump another? Yes, war and starvation are terrible. There’s plenty of terrible to go around. Terrible things around the world don’t diminish the tragedy of last week, for me. They are all unthinkable, and all deserving of compassion.
I am getting really sick of the cynicism. The world-weary attitude that needs to take away from one thing to make another stand out.
It’s all sad.
The kids end the concert every year by singing together, the whole school at once. They walk into the gym, surrounding us all.
This year their song was “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon.
Two hundred and fifty kids and their teachers stood around us, christmas lights and strings of paper doves over their heads. Some of them holding (artificial) candles under their chins, lighting up those beautiful, promise-filled faces. Some of them playing guitars, some playing jangly tambourines. What started as a quiet tune worked its way up into a rollicking celebration. The song was beautiful. And the words could not have been more timely, more appropriate, more necessary right now.
“Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”