Most Saturday mornings, our two-year-old granddaughter attends the story time event in the heart of Chicago's West Loop at Open Books. It's a precious gathering of toddlers and preschoolers who arrive with parents and grandparents in tow to listen to Miss Nancy read dramatically from picture books and hear Mr. Pat play tunes on his guitar for singing along.
This Saturday we accompanied Quinn for the mass educational assembly that includes, diaper bags, snacks, sippy cups and strollers amidst the stacks of books at this unique nonprofit social venture.
After a few minutes of the colorful stories and tunes, I noticed a mother with a little boy in his special stroller. He was probably three and developmentally disabled. Every once in a while, his mom would push the plunger on a 50cc syringe to inject nutrition into his feeding tube. Her son couldn't speak and didn't smile, but mom followed the action and observed the other kids. Occasionally, he moaned.
My heart ached for her and him and I wondered what she felt looking at the other kids. Was it envy or a yearning to see her own child filled with joy and the ability to imagine, sing and dance with others? I thought, "You are so courageous to bring your boy to this gathering and surround yourself with so many reminders of what he is not." She wanted the best for her little one no matter what he couldn't accomplish. It was a profound display of love.
There was just one such challenged child among some 25 tikes that day. Just the day before, there was just one child in a high school in Sante Fe, Texas who wrought mayhem on an art class with a shotgun and a revolver he reportedly acquired from his father. The 17-year-old concealed them in a trench coat above his combat boots, before murdering 10 and savagely wounding 10 more. Thank God his were not semiautomatic assault weapons.
Across the globe, earlier Saturday morning in a massive chapel in England, a bishop spoke about love at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. He repeatedly lifted up the "power of love" to renew the face of the earth.
And I wonder how much we love our children and grandchildren that we would allow them to suffer without help. To be so afflicted that they would aspire to slaughter schoolmates. To make firearms so accessible that the mentally deranged can pack them the way some bring a sandwich in a lunchbox or nutrition in a feeding tube.
There is no "silver bullet" solution to gun violence because it is a complex blend of neglect, addiction, illness, revenge, hate, fear, racism, crime, trauma, and insanity. Just as we cannot allow the mentally ill to go untreated, uncared for, un-nurtured and in some cases left to live on the streets, we cannot allow the young or the addicted or the afflicted to acquire weapons to hurt themselves or others.
Jesus said this about parents: "Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give you good things to those who ask him." (Matthew 7:9-11) It seems like when it comes to guns and violence, we are giving our kids rocks and venomous reptiles instead of nourishing bread and fish.
The answer to our crisis lies in the power of love -- like the powerful love that mother displayed with her beautiful, broken boy in a reading group where he didn't seem to fit. Because her actions said, "I love all children more than you'll ever know."