GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 21, 2012

Letter: A dark time on several fronts


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Friday will be the darkest day of the year — and boy does it feel like it in this country.

At a time when we are supposed to be celebrating and spreading joy, it feels as if there is only bad news. The tragic school shooting in a quiet New England town so close to us here on Cape Ann, the sinking economy, the state of health care and the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that so many of us have in our reality and in our imaginations today. It’s sad, really.

On Sunday, I had to attempt to explain to my 7, 10 and 12-year-old children about the day when a very sick man killed children in a school. On that same night, the tooth fairy arrived to deliver treats to my son who had worked through his anxiety all day by wiggling his tooth free.

And on Tuesday, I had to try and explain to my 10-year-old daughter why she would no longer be able to go to her beloved school.

In comparison, it’s such a smaller deal than the Connecticut situation; after all, I have a child to love and squeeze and adore.

But still, it is a huge loss for her, a devastating loss for our family.

Initially I was angry — like scary angry, ranting and raving about politics and community bullies and grownups who are not thinking about the children. And then I got tired. I’m sick of being angry about these things that are so far from my control. I can write some letters and talk a good talk, but in the end politics is politics and money is king. I will write the charter letter some other day.

Today, I am focused on the light in the darkness because that is what I have to do, that is what we must do in this country today if we are to survive as a nation.

After the shootings there was a beautiful quote that went around the media by Fred Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Isn’t that the truth? There are always those that want to help and those that care. I have had so many sweet people in our community come up to me in the grocery store or the local Y and talk with me about Nora and our experience at the charter school and offer support and understanding.

The sweetest people are those who really were not for the charter to begin with, but once it was up and going still asked for Nora and how she was doing there and wished us well. I would love to thank those people who built bridges instead of breaking them apart.

In graduate school for social work, the two most important things I learned were to build relationships, keep them strong, and do no harm.

That is what I will do this holiday season. We will make cookies for lovely teachers and neighbors and practice kindness to those we love and agree with, and most of all to those who we don’t love or agree with. Our children will learn more from this practice than they would in any school we could send them to anyhow.

KELLI BACKSTROM

Pine Road

Gloucester