I have a confession to make, O readers of the daily news! Lovers of newsprint. Subscribers to U.S. News and World Report.
“Hello. My name is Kim and I get my news online.”
I used to devour the daily news in paper form. Folding it this way and that, getting black ink on my hands then on my clothes. Loving the scent of the ink and the newsprint and even dreaming of a chance to be Kim–Girl Reporter.
But after living in a remote location with no daily newspaper, I now get all my news online.
And I’m not sure I like it.
The world has shrunk. The internet has grown (thank you so much, Al Gore.)
We laugh at the insurance commercial where the pretty girl is meeting her “French model boyfriend” she met on the internet. “Bonjour!”
We know not all is truth. We know that often the good doesn’t get reported. We know that there is so much spin that we get dizzy on the merry-go-round of information.
And yet. When did life get so ugly?
I have to believe that it is beyond just getting one-sided news. That gore sells. That ugly sells. That we are voyeuristic and flawed and want to read the sensational.
Instead we are pummeled by a world I no longer can comprehend.
Last night I perused the news. Online.
An Australian man, aged 22, in the United States on a college baseball scholarship goes for a jog in a small Oklahoma town and in the proverbial story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time story, jogs past a group of bored teenagers who decide to kill someone “for the fun of it.” They followed him and shot him in the back and he died in the street.
Since when did the option of killing someone become the answer for teenage boredom?
Our kids were bored plenty of times and my go-to answer to the summer-time, “I’m bored” wail was the garage needed cleaning, the house paint needed scraping and there was always laundry to be done and I was amazed at how quickly the boredom was squelched.
But murder? For fun?
What have we come to?
And a story out of Denver. Not in the “hood” but in an area where people walk to ball stadiums and restaurants and shops, a place where man of my dreams and I walked a few short weeks ago, a man walked into someone snapping a picture. Called a photo-bomb–where someone you weren’t wanting in your picture drops into it unexpectedly, the group of three took exception to this man’s mistake and beat him unconscious. In front of witnesses who called 911. In a crowd of people. Broke his facial bones. Caused him to go blind in one eye. Beat him till his brain bled. Beat him until he could not speak.
Because he dared to disturb a picture being taken on a cell phone.
They were arrested and are out on bail.
Which I’m sure is comforting to the man recovering in a Denver hospital.
You know, we’re not talking National Geographic photography here. Trying to get that just-right photo that will win the Pulitzer. And some oaf sees you taking the picture and decides to be a spoiler. By all accounts, the man just walked by not realizing he was cramping the photographers style by getting in the picture.
Haven’t we all done it? And said, “Sorry.” Or “Excuse me.”
Or laughed in embarrassment and offered instead to take the picture so the photographer could get in the shot with friends.
I don’t even know who or what they were taking pictures of, but whatever it was, or whoever it was, was it worth beating another human being senseless for making a mistake?
Who are we? And what happened to decency? And mercy? And grace?
What happened to simple kindness? And patience? And understanding life is less than perfect?
And sometimes life is boring. And sometimes things go wrong. But life is precious. And precarious.
And there, but for the grace of God, go I?
The final straw was this.
A letter slipped under a grandmother’s door in Canada. A grandmother who cares for her Autistic grandson in the summertime and it appears, God forbid, allows him to go out in public.
Here is part of the letter via Yahoo News.
“Dear Lady living at this address,
I also live in this neighbourhood and have a problem!!!! You have a kid that is mentally handicapped and you consciously decided that it would be a good idea to live in a close proximity neighgbourhood like this???? You selfishly put your kid outside everyday and let him be a nothing but a nuisance and a problem to everyone else with that noise polluting whaling he constantly makes!!! That noise he makes when he is outside is DREADFUL!!!!!!!!!! It scares the hell out of my normal children!!!!!!!!!”
The letter goes on to state:
- Crying babies, music and even barking dogs are normal sounds in a residential neighbourhood!!!!! He is NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- He is a nuisance to everyone and will always be that way!!!!!! Who the hell is going to care for him????????? No employer will hire him, no normal girl is going to marry/love him and you are not going to live forever!!
- [T]hey should take whatever non retarded body parts he possesses and donate it to science. What the hell else good is he to anyone!!!!
- You had a retarded kid, deal with it… properly!!!!! What right do you have to do this to hard working people!!!!!!!!!
- I HATE people like you who believe, just because you have a special needs kid, you are entitled to special treatment!!! GOD!!!!
- Go live in a tralier in the woods or something with your wild animal kid!!! Nobody wants you living here and they don’t have the guts to tell you!!!!!
And finally, this. “Do the right thing and move or euthanize him!!! Either way, we are ALL better off!!!”
I especially love how this highly educated and caring neighbor who never met an exclamation point she didn’t like, who types a letter but can’t use spell check, calls on the name of God, the creator of ALL life, to proclaim her hatred for this poor grandmother.
Recently, I went to Wal-Mart to get some things for my Mom. The moment I entered the store I could hear a boy sobbing and wailing in the front of the store while his Mom coaxed him into the checkout line. He looked to be about 10. Clean and neatly dressed but obviously upset that his mother had not done what he’d wanted. It was loud. It was disruptive. There were murmurs of “If it was my child, I’d….” from other customers and lots of staring and dirty looks.
All the while, the mother ignored the wailing, writing her check, conversing with the checkout clerk over the noise about did her frozen food need double wrapped. She looked hurried and harried and did not make eye contact as she finished her shopping and took the boy’s hand to leave. The quiet was deafening.
I had a hard time watching this sad ballet of life with an autistic child. Knowing that while it had worn on my nerves the fifteen minutes I stood there, how it must erode the life and heart and soul of this mother.
She had to hear. She had to know. But she needed bread and milk and out of the house for a few minutes so she depended upon the kindness and understanding of strangers.
Because isn’t that what we are supposed to be?
Is my life so puffed up and important that I no longer can be kind and instead of chastising a mother who has laid upon her bed night after night asking the question, “I won’t live forever. What happens when I can no longer take care of my beloved son?” we can be kind and if not offer a hand at least not offer a knife that cuts to the heart of a woman who did not ask for what she has.
Because did any of us?
When I lived in Houston and was at the lowest of the low points of my life, when I really wondered if I could get up the next day and even put one foot in front of the other because my heart was broken and life was raw, I stopped at a stop sign in my subdivision. Ready to be home at the end of another long day. Another car stopped at his side of the three way stop and as I started to pull forward, the car load of teen age boys made faces and rude gestures and screamed ugly words out the window while screeching tires as they cut me off in the street.
Lauren was car seat small. Too small really to know or understand what had happened. But scared because of the slamming brakes and her Mama crying over boys she didn’t even know and had never seen before being ugly for fun.
I’m sure they don’t even remember it 20 years later as they live now in subdivisions just like that and have car seat small boys and girls that they love and look at the world around them and read the news and wonder when did life get so ugly.
Small graces change a life. A smile. A whispered prayer for the mother of the hard child (for who hasn’t wrestled a temper throwing two-year old wishing for all the world the floor would swallow the both of you while the world watched you struggle?) instead of judgement. Not using the gesture or making the face or showing that you were in a hurry and your messy life is causing me grief. Because the next time it may be us. And we all need the milk of human kindness.
So today, speak love. Show mercy. Speak grace. Bring beauty into your corner of the world because if enough of us do, the world will be filled with love. And mercy. And grace. And kindness. In darkness, light shines the brightest.
Please, by all that is holy, shine the Light where ever you are. Create beauty. Practice kindness. Teach it to your children. Our lives depend on it.