As the Buddha said, we have to live in the present moment, and make sure each of those moments are meaningful. The other day, I drove my children to a risky neighborhood outside the city of Los Angeles. On the way there, my kids had many questions about the school shootings, questions I wasn’t able to answer. I felt powerless as a parent and also as a person since I didn’t understand the tragedy myself. “Something like that could never happen where we live,” my son remarked. I had to tell him that wasn’t true. That pretty picket fences and idyllic houses can hide the ugliness that exists behind brick walls, but it can’t destroy it.
When we reached our destination, my daughter wondered why there was such a heavy police presence and why all the windows of the houses were covered in metal bars. She didn’t feel safe, knowing we were far removed from our Westside neighborhood the locals deem “Mayberry By The Sea. “It’s a place like this where the bad things happen,” she said. I had to sadly tell her that bad things happen everywhere, even in our cozy community. When we reached the address we were looking for, all the fears, all the anxieties quickly melted away when my children saw the family we were there to visit. We had met them through the Children’s Hospital in LA. We adopted them for the holidays. Because they couldn’t afford a proper Christmas of their own, my kids saved up their money from birthdays, holidays and their $5 a week allowance and bought them an array of presents, the mother and father included.
The girl was the same age as my daughter. She was lovely, with a stunning smile and lush black hair. She had been in and out of hospitals all of her life after being diagnosed with spina bifida. Surgery after surgery, even missing out on school and sports didn’t quell this girl’s spirit. She greeted us with a hug and a hello and graciously invited us into her home.
My children looked around at the modest abode, obviously out of their element. But as children do, they quickly adapted to their environment. We brought boxes and boxes of presents into their home, presents my children put so much thought into and we delighted at the smiles of the receivers. The young girl told us of her struggle with her illness and I could see the empathy and understanding in my daughter’s eyes as she told her story. When it was time to go, the family embraced us with their hands and with their hearts; their gratitude was
overwhelming. I asked the girl if I could email her a photo and she revealed that the family didn't own a computer. My children truly understood the dire economic sircumstances of this family after hearing this remark.
When we got into the car, there was a moment of reflective silence, then both my kids stated, “Wow Mom, that felt really good to give.” We haven’t spoken about the children in Connecticut since, but we do still speak about our adopted family. My daughter has so many questions for the young girl, and is painting her a picture so she can have something lovely to look at while she’s in the hospital.
This act of altruism helped my children understand that by making the present moment meaningful, they were able to relieve some of the worry and fear that had overwhelmed them after the elementary school shootings. Of course, they didn’t forget, and most of us who aren’t directly involved won’t be able to forget for a very long time, if at all, but by healing the hurt and making the most of the moment, we can preserve some of our inner peace and happiness.