"Mami, you forgot to pray for the man with the gun"

Posted by Ailen Arreaza on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 at 3:43 PM

I don't even know where to begin. Ever since I heard about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, I've been vacillating between anger and despair, relief and helplessness, heartbreak and confusion.

The image of neatly wrapped Christmas presents that will never be opened in Connecticut has made me shed actual tears. The thought of the victim's parents hearing the news and rushing to the school, scanning the crowd for their children, and realizing the unthinkable makes me sick to my stomach.

I'm pissed at our country's gun laws, at the religious zealots who are blaming this on the "systematic removal of God from our schools," at the way our society continually glorifies violence.

I keep staring at the TV, trying to understand why, even though I know that nothing a news reporter can say will help me make any sense out of it.

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I hugged my own children tighter. I felt profound gratitude at being able to pick Luki up from preschool. But hugging my kids and telling them I love them doesn't make the families in Newtown, Conn., feel any better. It doesn't bring any of those 20 children back.

Over dinner on the day of the shooting, I decided to tell my 3-year-old son what had happened. I so wish I could shelter him from the violence in our world, but it's impossible - even fairy tales contain violent images.

"A terrible thing happened today, Luki," I said. "A man with a gun walked into a school and shot many children."

"Are they in the hospital?" he asked.

"No, they're gone. Their parents are very, very sad."

"I'm sad too," he replied.

Then we talked about guns, about how dangerous they are, about how we shouldn't even pretend to play with them because violence should always be the very, very last resort. Even for the good guys, even for the police.

I realize this is an overly simplistic way of looking at the problem. I realize that banning guns is unfeasible in a country so obsessed with its right to bear arms. I understand that the inadequacy of mental-health services in our nation also factors into the equation. I believe that the violence perpetuated in movies and video games plays a role as well. It's a complicated issue with no easy answers.

Still, on Friday night as I put my boy to bed, he helped me take one simple, small first step to understanding how this sort of thing can be prevented. We were praying, as we always do before he goes to sleep, and I asked God to bring peace to the families of the children, to help them in this very difficult time.

"Mami," he interrupted me. "You forgot to pray for the man with the gun."

It was the first moment of clarity I'd had since the news broke that afternoon. In a day filled with "I don't knows," one thing became remarkably clear. While it's perfectly normal to feel angry and sad and helpless after a tragedy, the overwhelming emotion in our hearts must be love, for all of those involved. I prayed for the man with the gun and for his family. I asked God to also bring them peace.

That is the answer. That kind of unconditional love that so often only originates in children will get us through this.

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