This Friday is the Winter Solstice, but undoubtedly, last Friday will be remembered as the darkest day of 2012. Over the past few days, like other parents around our country and the entire world, my wife and I have struggled with what to tell our second grade sons. Memories of September 11, 2001, when our daughter was in pre-school, were revived. How much can you shield those so young from the horrific details on TV and in newspapers? Last evening our older son came home from school with a barrage of questions. He had caught the headline of the morning newspaper at breakfast before he left but didn’t say anything to us. At school, he talked with classmates and before long began piecing things together. The curiosity of an eight year old is insatiable. The job of our elementary school teachers could not have been harder than it was on Monday. How do you explain to growing minds that which is unexplainable? What can a teacher or parent say to make children feel safe when the events of the morning of December 14 in a small town in Connecticut have shaken any sense of security for adults? Mr. Fred Rogers offered these words at times like these:
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.” To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world.
Mr. Rogers’ wisdom is both timeless and appropriate for all ages. Leave it to him to point us toward the shining light in our darkest moments, to see the good and courageous when we are tempted to succumb to fear and dwell on the evil. Make no mistake, we do have to deal with the evil; we must do more to prevent these tragedies. We need to work to change a culture that desensitizes the young and impressionable to violence and generally lacks basic respect for life. But we should point our children to the light – the heroes of that day – the administrators and teachers who protected their students (five giving their lives), the first responders, and all those who comforted the grieving. They provide the hope for the future. They are a beacon, like the Star of Bethlehem, pointing toward the path of salvation for our broken world.
Dr. John Smetanka,
Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January, 2008.