Last night I took our kiddos and their friends on a trip to NYC to see Be More Chill. It was so awesome. What I want to share (because I was / am still processing it all) was what happened immediately following the show.
The kids wanted to meet the stars of the show, so at the stage door they come out to sign playbooks and take selfies. Oh how adorable they were, playbooks in hand, phones ready, singing “Michael in the Bathroom” with so much joy and anticipation that made my heart melt.
Just as the stars were about to come out, behind me I heard a commotion. I turned to see a swarm of people running through Times Square. Almost in disbelief, my heart sunk, and all of the sudden a woman shouted to take cover. Words like “active shooter” were being tossed around like confetti, and before I knew it my mama bear instincts kicked in and like an octopus my arms made sure to touch every child I had with me. By the grace of God, another of theirs friend was at the show with her mother, Connie. They were with us, and Connie was a rock which helped me to be the same. We were running with the crowd into a hotel lobby and hid around a corner near the elevators while people were dialing 9-1-1 calling for help.
In all of the commotion, the kids while completely terrified, remained calm enough that they didn’t run off, they amazed me with their strength, and we all stuck together. And although I wanted to scream, my most precious gifts were looking at me with wide, innocent eyes saying they didn’t want to die. My heart was beating out of my chest as I assured them they would be alright, I did my best to be still and know. I kept hearing my fifth grade self singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” at my Riley School choir concert and wondered how on earth we got here, in this moment, where people could run around with guns shooting their peers.
I remember once hearing a story, an American Indian proverb I think, about each of us having 2 wolves inside of us, one is loving and the other is evil – whichever one we feed the most prevails. I kept picturing love pouring out filling up the starved hearts of those who need it most so we would never have to hear of a mass shooting again. Pouring out into the lawmakers to protect us, pouring out onto those who feel the need to hurt another with words or weapons, the damage is deep. Pouring out onto the terrified children who should never have to worry about this sort of thing.
After the longest 5 minutes of my life, the hotel security said we all needed to leave the lobby, that the police were outside to protect us. Again, I had my arms around the kids, and we walked linked together as quickly as we could to the parking garage. We left the city and while driving home, the kids read online that the panic was over a motorcycle backfiring, there was no active shooter.
I was so grateful no one got injured or lost their life in that situation last night. But the fact remains, that it has happened far too many times. And the collective fear created a panicked ripple that spread throughout Times Square in an instant. Now imagine the effect if the collective was not feeling fear but love – what a ripple we could have on one another. I believe in the beauty of the human spirit. I believe we can all choose to do the right thing. I believe the causes of this type of violence go deep, but not too deep that we can’t untangle this knot together. We cannot untangle it if we are apart. We cannot untangle it if we are fighting about the reason or the solution. We need to open our hearts, listen to one another, stand up always for what is good, and be the vessels that pour love into the world.