December 14th

Today is December 14th.

When I was in middle school and high school, December 14th was the day of my crush’s (who would later become my first boyfriend) birthday.

Later, when I became a teacher, December 14th was the birthday of another dear friend.

It was a happy day that I rarely forgot.

Five years ago, December 14th became a day that I would never forget, for different reasons.  It began with an early morning text from my brother about a situation at my nephew’s elementary school.  It became a national tragedy centered in the small town that my brother and his family still call home.  My nephew was fortunate not to be physically harmed.  As I’ve written about, it could have been very different.

There are simple things I always remember on this day: hold my children tightly; don’t take life for granted; live a life of love.

But trauma is never simple.  My nephew; my brother (and the rest of his family); the Sandy Hook/ Newtown community; other victims of gun violence (and their friends and family); those suffering from mental health issues (and their friends and family)–so many people in our country and in our world–continue to grieve, continue to suffer (often in silence), continue to misplace or displace our anger, continue to heal, continue to live in spite of it all, continue to try to find hope, love and a reason to keep believing.

In the days and years since December 14, 2012, I have prayed and signed petitions; donated; helped with community forums on gun reform; advocated for better mental health awareness and less stigma; I’ve done my best to create a world that is a better place for my children to grow up in.  But I know it’s not enough. I am too comfortable on many other days of the year that are not December 14th.

I know that until we are all able to see the children lost in Sandy Hook as our own; the children lost to senseless violence and tragedy EVERYDAY as our own; the orphan, refugee and undocumented children as our own; the children who don’t get equitable educational opportunities (that value their knowledge and cultures as strengths) as our own; the children suffering from abuse, physical and mental illness without access to the care they need as our own; until we are able to be responsible for the fact that our enemies are more similar to us than we choose to acknowledge and until we use whatever power and privilege we may have to be the change we want to see, December 14th will just continue to be another day and we will continue to witness more tragedy, until that tragedy is personal. And, I also know that even when tragedy touches us personally, it is still hard to not want to just withdraw into our own families, our own safety, our own lives. In fact, it is natural, but our comfort will not ultimately heal us.

I don’t know where to end this because I can’t end with a cliché or an optimistic exhortation, not today, not authentically. So, I will just end by saying that today has been a pretty decent December 14th, but that it is still sad and hard and full of unspeakable grief.  And tomorrow, on December 15th, the work continues, as it did 5 years ago and as it will until the day I die.

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