Convincing our kids that the world isn't ending

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So my 7-year old thinks the Mayans may be right.

She’s added up the heartbreak of Lyric and Elizabeth with the horror of Connecticut and has reached a conclusion. “Maybe the world really is going to end,” Ella said.

As a parent, you stand there, fumbling, trying to reassure her that it’s going to be all right, and that she’ll be as safe as can be when she goes back to school. Her older sister, Tess, awoke early Monday and asked me to search for the Sandy Hook school website. She wanted to find its school colors so she could wear them. Her texting friends were doing the same.

So with a week before Christmas, this is what has kicked the visions of sugarplums from our children’s heads. And I’m still trying to figure out what to tell them.

I was out shopping for my kids’ gifts Friday when I heard that Christmas had been shattered half a nation away. Not long after that, the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” popped up on my iPod. It’s based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote it after his wife died in a fire and his oldest son was severely wounded in the Civil War.

The song’s message is, basically, just when you think hate and evil have the upper hand, bells proclaiming goodwill and peace on earth will ring out "more loud and deep." Longfellow wrote, "The wrong shall fail. The right prevail." How deep inside would a guy in his situation have to dig to find that sort of hope? How deep do we have to dig? Or is it right in front of us?

One gunman forced his way into a school to do harm, but many more people inside risked, and lost, their lives to save children. Scores of police and first responders rushed to the scene to help and comfort. Millions of grieving Americans turned to one another, asking: What can be done to stop this? Our president, fighting back tears like so many of us, and other leaders have resolved to respond. I, and a lot of Americans, will be watching to see how they thoughtfully follow through.

When Lyric and Elizabeth disappeared, hundreds searched and held vigil. And that community of support was the light that continued to shine even when our darkest fears were realized.

So I’ll tell my kids that hope is still much stronger in this uncertain world than hate and hopelessness, no matter what the headlines say. Helpers and protectors vastly outnumber those who would do harm. We can’t let fear extinguish our faith. Your lives are just beginning, and the world is not ending.

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