Today is Tuesday, four days after our country witnessed a terrifying and history-altering event. It should have been a day like any other day, and in many ways it was. Parents woke to the manic sounds of their alarm clocks, they went in and roused their kids. They pleaded and prodded the little ones out of pj’s and into school clothes as the pint-sized people stopped to play with a special toy, or antagonize their sibling. Boys slicked down and combed their hair, girls scrubbed their faces and donned big pink or blue hairbows…they all gathered backpacks and lunch pails and notes for their teachers, and they left home and rode off to school with a parent or in a yellow schoolbus full of other wiggling little children. Just like any other day…
Then the news came…and the nation stood still… just as we did on the day the Challenger exploded, or foreign planes crashed into the Twin Towers, or John Kennedy was shot. We stood still not believing what we were hearing, not grasping or accepting the images we were seeing as our eyes, glued to the TV, began to blink back the tears until we could hold them back no longer. A 20 year old camo-adorned madman armed with guns and bullets went on a rampage, then killed himself taking with him 6 teachers and 20 innocent children, and a part of our country’s bright future.
Many of the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary were warned before the gunman could enter their classrooms. News reports say someone, maybe the principal who was one of the victims, or perhaps another office person, flipped the switch on the intercom so the entire school could hear the commotion, the ringing and scattering gunshots, the sounds of the victims as they experienced their own terror, and they might escape the same fate by running and hiding until they could be saved. It’s frightening to think about what that sounded like to those listening…but the harsh sounds of those who fell became the sounds of salvation for those who survived.
I didn’t hear the news that day until I returned home from a long day of errands and grocery shopping. I was hosting a company Christmas party the following Monday and so I headed out early…just like any other day…to run a few places, enjoy the bustle of the holiday crowds, then return to a nice warm home and maybe take in a movie on TV or read by the fire till bedtime. I had happened on a yard sale that morning and had gotten a few nice things to resell in my estate business. Among these things was a small divided box, about the size of my palm. It was buried in a box of the old jewelry from the yard sale vendor’s mom. When I took a closer look at the box I was delighted to see it held a tiny nativity set! Each piece was smaller than a dime, and there were 15 compartments for the pieces. One of the compartments was empty, and I was a bit disappointed, but I had to have it when I found out it was only $1.00. I could see the three figures of the main manger scene were all there and I knew that was the most important element. I pushed it down into my other bags, went on to my other errands and arrived home a bit after dark.
My plans for a peaceful evening changed when I saw the news. I sat watching the events unfold and although I was crying and heavy-hearted most of the night, I couldn’t tear myself away from the reporting until sometime very early the next morning. Each child’s face, each mention of a name brought to mind my own grandchildren. I could not imagine how it would feel to wait at the firehouse…wait, and wait…hoping to see your grandchild in the next group, and the next, and the next… and know she was safe because she had been hidden…but then be told that your own small one had not made it into hiding, and she would not be coming home again. I fell into bed exhausted and had a fitful night’s sleep.
The next morning I woke up and started my day with eyes that were still red-rimmed, but I knew I had many things on the list to do. I started with the purchases of the day before and began to put them away and my eyes fell on the tiny nativity set. I decided to set it up in a special place…and as I emptied the compartments of the figures…Joseph and Mary, wise men and donkey…I finally lifted the last piece out. It was the shepherd, and I was so surprised when I saw a teeny little sheep hiding behind the shepherd there. I had not seen this before…the nativity was complete, nothing missing at all!
My granddaughter, Lorelai, is beautiful…she smiles and sunshine emanates from every part of her heart-shaped face. She is smart and quick and we talk about how easily she memorizes and learns and how she will “be somebody” someday. Max and Isaac, the twin boys, are just now developing their own distinct little personalities. But we can already see the way Max investigates and peers at everything as if he is sizing it all up with the intensity of an engineer. Isaac is a squinty-eyed little rascal that captures your heart with one look, and he is very dextrous for his age and will likely be a hands-on worker of some sort.
I was reminded when I looked at the baby sheep in my hand, even with all their possibilities and talents and abilities that may come along as they grow and mature, the only thing that really matters to me is that my grandchildren are all protected and safe. They are in a world of wolves and those who seek to harm and destroy, and just like a tiny sheep, they are vulnerable to physical or spiritual danger. I want to be someone who “flips a switch” in their lives…warning them of the things that are cruel, letting them hear the truth, even when it will be frightening and maybe even harsh at times. Because I know that their only chance of salvation is in hearing and understanding this truth. And just like the tiny little sheep…they too must be found hiding behind the Shepherd.