IBJOpinion

HETRICK: In massacre's wake, a Christmas wish for divinity in each of us

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Bruce Hetrick

Last weekend, I was sitting in a parking lot at Castleton Square Mall, waiting for my wife to exchange a gift.

A father and two children—a daughter who appeared to be about 6 years old and a son who looked about 4—crossed in front of my parked car.

The dad was holding the little girl’s hand. The little girl was holding her younger brother’s hand.

As they neared the door to Macy’s, the little girl started to skip. Her dad and brother started running to keep pace. Their linked arms bobbed up and down.

Father, daughter and son giggled with delight.

When I was 6 years old—about the same age as the happy-go-lucky girl—our principal, Mrs. Pilster, walked into Mrs. Crossfield’s first-grade class. It was a month before Christmas. I looked up to see what was wrong.

Mrs. Pilster said President Kennedy had been killed. She told us to put our heads on our desks and be silent for a few minutes. She told us we’d be going home early that day.

Some of my classmates cried. Others didn’t know what to say or do.

During the days and weeks that followed, I watched the president’s funeral on our black-and-white TV. When Life and Look magazines arrived the next week, I looked over and over at the pictures of Caroline and John-John. They were kids my age. I felt sad that they’d lost their dad.

In the years that followed, people said children my age lost their innocence that day.

Nowadays, innocence is lost not when some faraway public figure is shot and killed, but when 6-year-old children, their teachers and principals are shot and killed.

When dads and their skip-to-my-loo daughters are at risk while shopping for Christmas presents at the mall.

When worshippers are at risk while attending services.

When friends and family are at risk while watching a movie.

When workers are at risk while doing their jobs.

Each time a mass shooting occurs, we shake our heads in sadness.

We struggle to find words, but shed plenty of tears.

The president flies in to console the victims’ families.

The gun-control lobby says there are too many guns.

Gun advocates say there aren’t enough guns.

The mental health community says there’s not enough treatment and prevention.

Public officials say there’s not enough money for mental health.

Nearly everyone says we need to have a national conversation: About gun control. About mental health. About violence. About the loss of faith and values.

But talk is cheap.

Time after time, we get ourselves in a lather; do nothing more than talk about the need to talk; then rinse and repeat when the next mass killing occurs.

Now, we have the victims of Newtown, Conn.—Charlotte Bacon, 6; Daniel Barden, 7; Olivia Engel, 6; Josephine Gay, 7; Ana Marquez-Greene, 6; Dylan Hockley, 6; Madeleine Hsu, 6; Catherine Hubbard, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; Jesse Lewis, 6; James Mattioli, 6; Grace McDonnell, 7; Emilie Parker, 6; Jack Pinto, 6; Noah Pozner, 6; Caroline Previdi, 6; Jessica Rekos, 6; Avielle Richman, 6; Benjamin Wheeler, 6; Allison Wyatt, 6; Rachel Davino, 29; Dawn Hochsprung, 47; Nancy Lanza, 52; Anne Marie Murphy, 52; Lauren Rousseau, 30; Mary Sherlach, 56; and Victoria Soto, 27—to remind us why conversations are not enough.

On the day after the Connecticut school shooting, a newspaper columnist asked how a kind and benevolent God could allow such a thing.

Perhaps because God isn’t a puppeteer or micromanager, but one who sees the divinity in each of us to work our free will with one another and our planet. What if God’s role is merely to say, “Here’s your gift of life; let’s see what you can make of it”?

Judging by wars, prejudice, assassination, pollution, rape, nuclear arms, chemical weapons, genocide, homicide, hunger, homelessness and the mass murder of schoolchildren, we’re not faring so well.

This week, Christians celebrate the birth of one we call Emmanuel, a savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Sitting in church on Christmas Eve year after year, I’ve heard ministers speak of this holiday as “God, with us.” I’ve heard them explain how a “little child shall lead us.”

If God makes each child in His own image, if God is with us through the gift of every child, if every little child has the potential to lead us—as the next Einstein or Mother Teresa or Mandela or Maggie Thatcher or Buddha or Muhammad or Jesus—then our failure to have more than a conversation about guns and violence and mental health is nothing short of sacrilege.

As Christmas passes, it’s time to do more than talk. For the sake of little girls holding hands with their dads and moms, their brothers and sisters, it’s time to recognize that the divinity in each of us far outweighs some twisted “right” to the weapons that can kill any of us.•

__________

Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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