In the face of endlessly tragic news

On a trip that took me away from phone and internet service all last week, I went to a glassblowing class.

Our group was made of six white-haired ladies, myself, and a mom with her eleven-year-old son named Eli.

Eli had seen a glassblowing demonstration a few months back and ever since, he’d wanted to grow up to pull glowing, molten glass out of a bright furnace. This was his first hands-on opportunity. As each woman stepped up to choose the color of her glass orb and be guided through the process, he watched, riveted.

Eli’s turn. He chose red and white. Someone said, Christmas colors, but his mom quietly said to me, No, the color of his aunt’s favorite sports team. The aunt’s dog had died recently and Eli thought that giving his first glass project to his aunt might cheer her up.

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When I landed at the end of the week—back in range of phone and internet and radio—the first news I heard was a terrorist attack in France. A truck plowing into a crowded celebration. This, on the heels of bombs in airports and shopping centers, shootings in places like nightclubs and schools and traffic stops. People dead. People aching. People on edge.

My heart slumped. Not another one. Part of me reached for the buttons that would turn off everything and unplug me again. Another part of me said no, the answer is not to cover our ears; there is value in witnessing others’ pain, mourning with mourners.

So what do we do? I hesitate to think that anything I say or do even makes a difference.

I think of Eli. His small generosity. Unable to reverse something gone wrong, he moved forward with an urge to fill a sad space with beauty and love. Such a quiet gesture, so earnest that it even seems childish.

But that gesture (and no doubt millions of others like it) happened on the same planet, in the very same week that an angry, misguided man careened into a crowd.

I think it is a mistake to believe that we are caught in an inescapable spiral of violence.

A new generation is always arriving on the planet, wide open to possibilities, eager to care. Some of them have been here eleven years already; others are showing up tomorrow. If we want to break the world of its violences, I can’t help but think it can start with honoring our children’s impulse to love.

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