Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Constant Reminder of Everything Good

I was working as a welder on a steel tube mill in 1996. My wife and I were about two weeks from celebrating our daughter’s first birthday. One day while on my lunch break I began my normal routine of reading the newspaper. On the front page was a story that was, up to this point of my life, the most horrible thing I had ever read.

Honestly, I can't remember what the headline was, but it was something along the lines of, “Massacre of the Innocents in Scotland”. A man in his early forties had entered a local kindergarten with a gun, and within 4 minutes had shot 16 kindergarteners, their teacher, and himself. All 18 died.

I remember being shocked at how much evil had taken place in such a short time. It then occurred to me that this individual would have taken on average of 15 to 20 seconds between each murder, and that to watch a little child crying and terrified for 15 seconds, before pulling the trigger is a lifetime. I couldn’t help but think about this happening over and over 16 times; the wickedness and coldness of it all shook me.

In the end, this story had a deep and painful effect on me. For the first time in my life the people I had read or heard about in the news had become real. No longer imaginary two-dimensional characters in a story that didn’t affect my life, they were now very real. These little kids were very alive, then they were very terrified, and then they were very dead; and the pain they and all who loved them was all too very real.

For the first time I could remember, reading about the local news, tomorrow’s weather or yesterday’s sports seemed so trivial. There’s obviously nothing wrong with reading the paper, but whether it’s rational or not, I put the paper down and didn't pick another one up for a long time. A small part of me died, and larger part of me was born.

Man’s nature is disposed to turning its love inward, to worship the idol of self. Becoming the object of their own affection, mankind loses its ability to truly love anyone. Their concern is for the all-deserving “me”, and the all-important “now”. For these people children are seen as a burden; they have no place and even less worth.

But children force people to care about the future. In an ingenious way, they tie us to it by the fact that we know someone we love very, very much will someday, God willing, live there. Knowing how selfish I can be now, I can’t imagine how horrible I’d be without my kids.

There’s something about having kids that changes the way you look at life. Their vulnerability magnifies the real evil lurking in the world, but their innocence is a constant reminder of everything good, right, and beautiful in it.