With two working parents, the first ten years of my life were spent under the care of a full-time nanny. Marcia would pick us up during the school year and have us ready for dinner as my parents would arrive home in the evening. During the summer she would take care of us Monday through Friday, eight am to five pm. From sundaes to french toast, the zoo to the playground, road trips to Tyler or parking at DFW Airport to watch the planes land or depart, Marcia created a memorable summer for me and my two siblings to enjoy.
Marcia had two daughters: Irene and Stephanie. Basically like sisters, they would join Marcia and watch over us, helping to add an element of fun to our summer-time schedules.
I loved running errands with Stephanie. She was in her early twenties, outgoing, a college student, listened to great music (Bryan Adam’s, Everything I Do, was our jam), and would occasionally take me to a store where I could spend my allowance on a new toy or game.
But there was one thing that seriously irked me about Stephanie that, at the time, was almost more than I could handle.
Stephanie would never let me buy a gun from the toy store.
Like, seriously? I’m a boy! All my friends were wielding the newest NERF weapons, bee-bee guns, or talking about the rifle they shot some rabbits or a dear with while hunting out in East Texas with their father. Why couldn’t I join the club? Even with my well-executed arguments and intoxicating smile, I could not get her opinion to swing.
Her response was simple and to the point. Michael, I don’t want you playing with guns… they’re dangerous, whether real or not, and I don’t want you to feel comfortable with one in your hand.
That was never good enough for me. I still couldn’t grasp the tension of this really cool twenty-something telling me not to spend my money or play with something that was considered really cool in my school.
Following Friday’s events in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 children and 6 adults were viciously murdered by an assortment of guns ranging from a 10-millimeter-Glock to a semiautomatic “long rifle,” my mind
was is full of questions, my heart was is full of anger, and my eyes were are still filled with tears from the images, interviews, and growing details of this planned attack on helpless children and educators.
It was during this period of question and confusion that the image of Stephanie at the Target (on BeltLine Rd.) telling me, with both firmness and love, that I would not be purchasing a toy gun while I was with her. Stephanie, a life-long educator herself, knew the importance of instilling a message for so many young, malleable minds of the dangers of guns and the dangers of becoming comfortable when a gun is around you. Stephanie made an impression, an impression that has always made me cautious around guns, around acts of violence, and around the events that follow someone who picks up or is handed a weapon of any kind. What happened after the Newtown shooter picked up one of his mothers many guns will be etched in the minds of an entire community and an entire nation for years and years to come.
This Advent season, a particular scripture has been revealing itself to me in numerous ways. From tweets, to text messages, to one of our readings at a Blue Christmas Service; a service of lament, sadness, and healing as the Christmas season brings with it not just joy and good tidings but grief and despair, it has followed me over these past three weeks. It comes form the first chapter of the Gospel according to John, verse five:
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.”
was is a light to me and so many children that she encountered; making one bold, determined effort to keep guns out of the hands of her students.
God shares with us the light for all people: a light that regardless of how dark, how angry, how confused, and how broken we may be in lieu of this tragedy in Connecticut and the gun violence tragedies that soar at record numbers throughout this country (especially the south and west side of Chicago), cannot and will not be concealed.
We are called to be the light today. Let the end of this violence begin with us, God. Peace is possible. Peace is possible.