One of our Christmas traditions is watching the movie Love Actually. We watched it on Saturday, the day after the horrible massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The opening lines of the film struck me more than usual with the news fresh in my mind.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.”
As horrible as the massacre at Sandy Hook was – and make no mistake, nothing is more tragic than the brutal murder of so many young children – tragedy befalls this nation everyday. When a mother loses her infant to SIDS does she grieve any less? When a husband loses his wife to a drunk driver crossing the center line is his world not turned upside down? No, yet these moments are rarely covered in the media and certainly not on a national level. And this isn’t to say that the media shouldn’t have covered Sandy Hook or that they should cover the more “everyday” occurrences of tragedy. News is news because it is novel; something out of the ordinary. But as we watch these tragedies unfold we should be mindful that the novelty which brought their coverage is a reminder that “love actually is all around.” If the world really was filled with hatred and greed instead of love and charity these tragedies would be more commonplace, we’d be desensitized to them, and the media would be covering something else.
So grieve the children of Sandy Hook. But at the same time, and perhaps to a greater extent, celebrate the heroism of people like teacher Victoria Soto and therapist Rachel Davino, who were so full of love for their first grade students that they gave their lives protecting them. Celebrate six-year old Jack Pinto who was, in the words of his family, an “inspiration to all those who knew him.” His family also added that they would not dwell “on the loss but instead on the gift that we were given and will forever cherish in our hearts forever.”
Life is short no matter how long we live and every day should be cherished as a gift. Those days or moments that are extraordinarily good we should celebrate even more. And these moments don’t have to be newsworthy, although perhaps they should be. They can be the smile that lifts someone’s spirits on a dreary day. They can be the latte purchased by the person in front of you at the drive-thru. Many times they even rise to the level of newsworthiness, as did this story about a cop giving a motorist much more than a citation.
We may never truly know all the motives behind the tragedies that befall society but one hypothesis is fame. Even though these monsters often turn the gun on themselves in the end, perhaps realizing the magnitude of their act, it seems some do it for the attention they will receive. A Facebook post originally attributed to Morgan Freeman, despite being a hoax in some sense, nonetheless speaks the truth. The post ends by encouraging readers to “help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim… You can help by turning off the news.”
I’ll go one further. We should encourage and spread good news, if we choose to make famous not the cowards hiding behind an arsenal of guns but the heroes that step in front of them perhaps our young people will grow up aspiring to this kind of fame instead. And I’ll say it, we could certainly benefit from some more solid morality in society. As a friend quipped, “some people ask how God could allow something so tragic to happen in a grade school; perhaps it is because God is no longer allowed in schools.”