It was with profound relief that I listened to the minister close last evening's community Christmas musical in Pugwash by acknowledging the unimaginable tragedy that had occurred earlier in the day.
"Perfect words," I was able to tell Rev. Meggin King afterwards but that's all I could say. The unimaginable was also unspeakable.
We had experienced the joy of beautiful music amidst the bleakness of a massacre. I watched one particular woman in the choir and I could tell from the look of pure joy on her face as she sang, her enjoyment of the soloist and trios that she is one of those people who Truly Love Christmas. I felt happy for her.
The pianist is a friend of mine but also the vice-principal at an elementary school. Already running on the hyped-up exhaustion that comes with putting on a major concert, she would still be processing what had happened in her world in another part of the world while she played carols and non-traditional, very upbeat Christmas songs.
The other thing churches do well is fellowship: tea and coffee, sandwiches and sweets. This time after the concert was a balm for my shocked spirit. I
am a stranger in church but not in the community although to many, I am a
name in the paper but not a face they can find in the crowd. Some people recognized me, however, and some old friends found me and they said
the kindest words about my writing. How much they enjoy it, how it touches them; one woman
even told me what her favourite columns are. We talked about Christmas plans -- someone has stopped counting at 30 of those planning to be at her farmhouse on Christmas Day -- and we laughed, we hugged, we wished each other "Merry Christmas".
The minister's prayer and these conversations over tea are are not unconnected to the tragedy in Connecticut and they need to continue. The giving and receiving of kind words, of encouragement, the sharing of joy are what we need to do to keep the light burning. Darkness has swept in around us, closer than ever before, and we need to keep going, however much it hurts. What makes that possible is the kindness we show to each
other. Every time this happens, we have to love each
other more and be kinder to each other. Shining the light of love and kindness is our only human defense
against the darkness.
It's okay, too, to be kind to oneself. Feel the tragedy, be upset, be scared. Be grateful, be gentle, take care of yourself.
Walking my dogs is one of the "normal" things I do in times of agony. They shoot out the door with great enthusiasm and proceed with their normal stuff. They don't know why I burst into tears this morning but they also don't know what happened to 20 children and six female teachers in a school in the States. All they know is we are going for a walk. Oh, what pleasure these four-legged friends get from the simple act of walking across the field and into the woods.
It seemed appropriate that the wind was so cold, it made my face ache. It gave me a sharp pain in my forehead. But it was not unbearable pain and I welcomed that sensation. Yet again, I had reason to be grateful for this safe and happy life. It only seemed fair to keep walking while the dogs chased each other with a stick.
(See how the light always returns, how it drives back the heavy, dark
clouds? Even if the biting wind continues to freeze and force us back, makes it a struggle to move forward,
the light shines, strengthens, gives hope. One step at a time.)