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Starting to Listen, really listen...

Like so many people around the nation and the world, I wrestle with trying to get my head around what could possibly compel someone to open fire on a classroom full of innocent teachers and children. My heart aches for their families.

As I sat waiting to pick up my daughters from school, I witnessed a young boy, about the age of those slain in Connecticut, racing with excitement into the arms his waiting parent. I remembered those days when my girls bounded toward me with open arms and bursting with love and excitement to share the adventures of their day with me. I thought of those parents who will never again feel the sweet exuberant embrace of their child in this world. It nearly brought me to tears.

As we await details of the investigation, praying for some sort of answers, in our hearts we know that no explanation could possibly ever really suffice. Yet, we can't help but hang on every word, even speculation, of what happened and why. Why?

Moving to blame, we search for solutions outside of ourselves. Do we need to regulate guns? Arm teachers? Provide access to better mental health care? Grasping for answers, we feel like something must change so that these children have not died in vain. There are no quick answers, and no answers that will bring those killed back to their families.

How do we move forward? I believe we start by learning to be better listeners. As we scurry through life, from one "should" to the next, we ask our children how their day was, but are we truly actively listening? Do we stand at the ready to advocate on their behalf, or the behalf of another child? Or do we turn a blind eye to bullying, abuse or need for medical intervention? Telling ourselves "kids will be kids" and they will get over it?

I am reminded of a quote that I often paraphrase for my girls:

“Hurt people hurt people ... People hurt others as a result of their own inner strife and pain. Avoid the reactive response of believeing they are bad; they already think so and are acting that way. They aren't bad; they are damaged and they deserve compassion. Note that compassion is an internal process, an understanding of the painful and troubled road trod by another.” ― Will Bowen

I have to believe that the shooter had to have been severely broken, yet that brokenness will never, never justify his actions, and compassion something that only time could possibly grant. But, the whole situation can serve as a reminder, to listen, really listen.

Listen to what seem to be trivial complaints, for in the world of a young person, without the perspective of years of life experience, they often seem paramount.

Listen to tales of misunderstandings, of bullying, and injustices and try to help them make sense of it all. Do we give them perspective, help them to try to find the compassion to grant forgiveness to others and move forward, even when we struggle with that ourselves.

Listen to them as make their own decisions, discover true friendships, and choose to walk away from situations or people who do not lift them up.

Listen to that little voice inside, telling you that a child needs someone to talk to, an encouraging word, a prayer or someone to step up and advocate for them.

Listen to their eyes when they don't echo what is pouring from their mouths.

For I believe that until we choose to Listen to the whispers of those who are hurting and in need of help, those whispers will grow louder and louder until the crescendo can, once again, no longer be ignored.

We are already hearing the shouts of so many proclaiming what/who is to blame and how they can fix it. But, are we asking the tough questions, the ones only a listener can ask? Have we opened our ears and our hearts in preparation for some potentially tough answers?

Are we Listening as though the lives of our children depend on it?

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