It was a few days after the 9/11 tragedy. We had done our best to shelter our not-quite-three-year-old daughter from the constant onslaught of images on the news, but there was no way to censor things entirely, particularly our conversations as the tragedy unfolded. How could this happen? Who would do such a thing? How were we to go on?
So it wasn’t too surprising when, as we got to the end of bath time that evening, she said: “Tell me about the splat in the sky.” Explaining horror to a very small child is not the easiest thing in the world, but I did my best. I explained that there were some people who lived far away who got very, very angry at our country. And because they were so angry they decided that they wanted to hurt as many people as they could, and so they flew some airplanes into buildings. And so many, many people were hurt, and we were very sad. She thought for a moment, squared her shoulders, and looked at me from there in the tub. “They should have made a better choice.”
They should have made a better choice. It’s OK to get mad, but it’s not OK to hurt people. Use your words. Look for a solution. Take a breath. Take another breath. So many of life’s tragedies could be avoided if we would all just adhere to the wisdom that we teach our toddlers.
The men who downed the planes should have made a better choice. Also the Bush administration should have made a better choice than to go to war with Iraq. And now, now there is Syria. And surely Assad (and/or his generals) should have made a better choice than to use chemical weapons. But could it be that we are, in fact, on the verge of making a better choice ourselves? Could it be that the governments of the world will manage to walk the fine line between allowing the unacceptable and committing the indefensible?
Probably it is too soon to get attached to hope. But there it is. In this particular moment, Wednesday, 9/11/2013, it seems like President Obama, Congress and various heads of state have acknowledged that there might be a better choice. That there could be solutions that don’t involve blowing things up. That it’s OK to be mad, but that doesn’t mean we need to hurt people. That we could pause, and take a breath, and work toward a solution that is better than what happens when you rely on hurting people to tell the world how you feel.
What will happen remains to be seen, but today I am praying for a better choice.