Today, the girls and I had to make a trip over to the college so I could buy a textbook for class. Since all the nearest parking is permit-only, we had to park about six blocks away from the bookstore. Even though it was a pain (literally) hauling the carseat all that way, it provided us the opportunity to notice all the flags.
Thousands and thousands of tiny flags, the kind that would look like they were installing a sprinkler system, except there were too many for that.
"Look at all these flags!" Sydney exclaimed. They were just the right height for her to admire them closely as they lined the sidewalks all down the main walkway of the campus. "Green flags!" she called out. "Oh! Yellow flags! Brown and orange flags!" I knew that something had to be going on. A prank? A political statement about the war? My initial response was cynical curiosity, until I saw the sign: Each Flag Represents 500 People.
And then another poster: Holocaust Remembrance Day.
We stopped walking and paused along the sidewalk. The orange flags for the handicapped. The green flags for the prisoners of war. Flags for all the different ethnic groups murdered in the Holocaust. But the most dominant color: yellow. For the Jewish people. More than ten thousand yellow flags waved in the breeze along the path to the bookstore.
We walked farther, but Sydney stopped again, "Look Momma! Little flags," she almost pulled one out of the grass in her enthusiasm. "Little yellow flags!" The lawn in front of the administration building was full of little yellow flags. Each flag representing 500 lives, the lives of Jewish children.
"Can I take one?" Sydney asked.
"No, sorry, honey. They belong to someone else." I stopped short of saying who they belonged to because I really felt like the flags belonged to all of us. We all need to remember.
Today of all days should have been a day of peace. A day to remember that hate and violence is never the answer. A day to hold close the preciousness of life. Today should have been filled with beauty as a true stand against the ugliness of hate.
And yet today today a gunman murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech. The worst shooting massacre on American soil. I watched part of the video footage, and then had to turn it off. It's too much for me. It's too sad. I can't imagine it, any of it. I am haunted by thoughts of the mothers who sent their kids off to college--praying that they'd drive safely, stay away from drugs, look both ways before crossing the street--never imagining the dangers of just sitting in a classroom. My heart aches for the family of those affected by today's tragedy.
Despite the horrors, despite the violence, despite the real monsters under the bed, I have to persist in seeing the good. I can't live a cynical life and be an effective parent. I admit, some days it's a day by day decision. I have to choose the beauty. I have to choose compassion. But for my girls, I make that choice.
I will remember that there is hope even in despair.
I will be the parent who chooses to show her children the good they can do in this world.
I will tell my daughters that it is better to love than to hate, even if it's not always easiest.
We must never forget. And we must never give up on those who have been forgotten.
"I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains." -- Anne Frank