Early yesterday evening I was thinking about my daughters. I was talking about how hard it is to figure out how to raise them in our current culture — a culture that doesn’t respect much of anything. A culture that is floundering, trying to find a balance between freedom and responsibility, between the old and the new. A culture that is trying to figure out what is as it always should have been and what really ought to always be.
I was wondering aloud how to teach them right versus wrong, how to teach them that truth isn’t relative… while also teaching them that people are all equal and that we must never allow ourselves to judge the worth of a person based on the quality of their actions.
In other words, how do I teach my daughters to grow up to live with integrity in a culture that often doesn’t even seem to recognize the word.
And then around 10:00 last night, my phone vibrated with a news update, and my heart broke. And today it feels like it’s scattered – part with the officers brutally murdered protecting our freedom and our rights. Part with those who have lost dearly loved ones at the hands of the very few police officers who don’t respect the life they protect. And part still with the loved ones and all the ones broken in a nightclub in Florida, killed for the manner in which they choose to spend their freedom.
All morning, I have been flashing back to the early 90s. I was ill, and George HW Bush was on the tv talking about the United States invading Iraq because they had invaded Kuwait. I hadn’t heard of these countries, but I knew war was bad. All the next day, I laid sick on my couch, and I kept watching down the side street, sure that enemy war tanks would come rolling down the street.
Slowly I learned that things like that don’t happen in America. Things like that happen in other countries. War is in other countries. Distrust of authority is in other countries. A reason to distrust authority is in other countries. Mass violence and terrorism happen oceans away to people who live lives that look a lot different than mine.
And I created a little cocoon of peace. A mental shelter protecting me from all the bad that is out there.
And for many years, that cocoon was more than just a mental shield.
In large part, we were protected. We were safe. The bad stuff did happen out there.
But now weekly it is becoming more and more obvious that the ugly realities of the world aren’t out there. We aren’t sheltered; we aren’t immune; we aren’t different.
And ultimately, we aren’t safe.
And I sit here wondering how I possibly raise my daughters in a world that I do not understand. That seems foreign to me. That feels ugly and hateful and spiteful and cruel.
And part of my answer is to protect them. To protect, to the best of my abilities, their lives, but equally so, to protect their minds and their hearts and their souls. To let them grow up in a world that feels loving and feels safe. Because they have to be allowed to believe in love before they can stand up to hate. They have to know themselves before they can be expected to stand up to all the darkness that threatens to consume.
And I have to teach them to love. To always love. To reject fear and hatred and close mindedness. To be astonished at the hate. To not understand it. To allow their hearts to break when the hearts of the world are breaking all around them.
To stay open and vulnerable and kind and hopeful.
Because as Martin Luther King Jr has been quoted all around the internet today saying, only love can stand up in the face of violence. Only love has a chance to extinguish the hate.
And only we can be that love and teach that love.
Mother Theresa said that to change the world, we have to start in the home.
Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe growing a generation that is more kind and open and loving is the only hope any of us have. Maybe only our future can save us from ourselves. And maybe we are the only ones who can nurture that love in the hearts of those who will come after.
God bless. Go out and be the love this world needs. You don’t need to do it big. Just do it.