I woke myself up sleep-talking this morning. I know it sounds funny, but I do it to myself quite often. (You just can’t shut me up.). As I woke, I was looking (in my dream) down the eye-piece of a gun and saying ‘but I can’t see if I’m going to hit someone’. What I remember was being told to fire at a target but I was worried that people would walk in front of me, and I wouldn’t see them because I was focussed on the target.
It was a really weird dream for me to have. I don’t do guns. Ever. I am completely against their use by the public and would never find myself in the situation of firing a gun. Actually, because of something that happened a very long time ago I am very scared of them. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near one, let one be holding and firing it myself. Yet that’s what I was dreaming.
The next thing I knew was the tragic news that 28 people had been shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. My heart sunk at the thought of yet another school shooting, and fell even further when I learnt that most of those killed were young children.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
— Fred Rogers
It is extremely hard to find anything good in such a situation. One of the first pictures I saw was of police officers leading children away from the school. The helpers. In spite of the tragedy, the helpers were there… and we can be thankful for that. There will be many helpers over the coming days helping children and adults from all types of situations deal with what has happened. We can be thankful for them too.
One thing I’ve learnt in the last couple of years, through the earthquakes and other trauma here, is to look for the good. It’s often really hard to see it, and it’s really hard to look away from the traumatic scenes to focus on something else, something good, maybe something beautiful.
Yesterday I drove up my driveway, and let me explain that there is nothing beautiful about the property these days. As well as badly damaged homes, the driveway (bitumen) has enormous cracks across it from where the earthquakes nearly two years ago left it damaged. I admit that I have had no inclination to do gardening because I know it will all be ripped up when the house is repaired. So everything is looking pretty rough. Yet I drove up the driveway and caught sight of something red on the ground.
When I got out of the car I found red poppies growing in what looks like the world’s worst driveway. I’ve seen plenty of photos (although better standard than mine) of flowers coming up through bitumen or concrete. Sometimes it looks genuine but mostly it looks like it has been placed there purposely. These poppies were not placed there. They grew from seeds blown from who knows where, and the forced their way through the hard surface to provide a touch of beauty. It is a big property but these are the only flowers on it. They’re risking everything, as I and my neighbour drive up over this area everyday.
Maybe that seems a bit dumb, but to me it was a gift, and if I hadn’t had my eyes open I wouldn’t have seen what I wasn’t expecting. It was so nice to see something beautiful amongst so much damage (that I admit I am just used to now).
I don’t think anyone has perfect words for a day like today, which has contained so much tragedy and heart ache for so many families. Maybe the good in it is to remind the people we love, just how much we love them. Treasure the beauty that exists. Because it is there. We just need to be reminded to look. We often need to look where we least expect it. If we don’t have our eyes open, we might just miss it.