- 48-hour live-TV blackout - nothing except on-demand, Disney Channel, or DVDs on screen
- Keep in touch with the outside world via Google News, but make sure the browser tab is only open when I'm alone
- Think of how to explain in case one of the kids hears something
- Pray for inner peace
- Smile. Keep it together. Pretend everything's ok
This is what one has to do when one has a child with severe anxiety. She can't ever know, at least not until she's much older, that there is this kind of violence and uncertainty in the world. She struggles enough now. Sandy Hook was the hardest - it was so close to home, and the kids were the same age as the victims - but I managed. My kids know something happened, but they don't know the details, and that's ok.
Oh, and I did one more thing, after the children came home: I baked cookies. A new recipe for me, German Spice Cookies, but I used some vintage cutters that came out of my great-grandmother's house when the last of her children died.
I read recently that one's life is a hyphen, or more properly, an en dash, between two numbers: the date you were born, and the date you die. What you make out of that en dash is up to you.
The credit card companies call the en dash time your "grace period," the time between your purchase and when you have to actually pay for it without accruing interest.
(Cookies… punctuation… grace period… where am I going with this? Hang in there. It'll all make sense soon, I promise.)
As I rolled out those cookies to a perfect 1/8" thickness, I reflected on how powerless I actually am. Unlike my characters, I'm not magical, nor am I a brilliant inventor, nor a skilled fighter. If anything, I'm more like Max, who doesn't have any particular magical ability except a really big heart (his true name is "the compassionate one," after all). I don't have a huge fan base. I don't have money. I don't have a public voice to speak of. I'm basically one of millions of ordinary people struggling with ordinary lives in complete obscurity until the date on the other side of that en dash arrives. Until the grace period ends, and you have to settle your accounts.
Oh, but that grace period is filled with tiny little moments and words and actions that are invisible to almost everyone on the planet, except the people closest to us.
Those cookies are miracles.
They saved the day from misery and despair. They transformed a blah rainy Wednesday into a holiday celebration. They saved my children from feeling my grief and frustration, by turning them into spicy, crispy bites of love. Those cookies connected me to women in my family who are long dead, but who came alive when I used their cutters. My kids felt safe and warm and secure, and I had something to do with my hands.
Grace is best understood by looking at the adjectival form of the word, meaning, "to make something difficult look effortless." We call dancers and skaters "graceful" when we watch them perform. Sometimes, it looks so easy we criticize when they fail - "I can't believe she messed up that triple toe loop!" - as if we do anything close.
Those cookies were grace-filled: seemingly simple, easy, ordinary, but in reality they accomplished what words and logic and science could not. And God's grace is shown in something so basic, so ordinary as the birth of a human child, and in one more violent death in a violent world. Just one. That's all it took, and yet that one life - that one date, en dash, date - was more gloriously impossible, to paraphrase Madelaine L'Engle, than we can ever understand. That's grace.
So here's the point: maybe I can't do anything about the violence and senselessness rampant in our country, let alone the world. Mostly likely you can't either. You're probably much like me, dear reader. But I can do two things gracefully: I can bake cookies really well; and I can use whatever skill I have with words to tell you what you can do to change the world.
I want you to bake cookies.
I want you to bake a dozen cookies for each of the lives whose en dash was ended by gun violence in the USA this year.
No judgment. No words. Just cookies. A dozen. Five dozen. Whatever you like.
When you're done, tell me how many you baked and what kind. I'll post a running tally. Who knows, maybe together we can bake 12,000 dozen? More?
Then, eat them, give them away, share them with friends. No explanations. Just enjoy the grace, period.