When our babies are born, we are filled with hopes and dreams. Dreams of the kind of life our child will have and hopes that he will live a life filled with joy, prosperity and fulfillment. So how are we to cope when the dream we had for our child becomes a nightmare? How are we to respond when the choices our children make or the challenges they face take them away from the kind of life we hoped they would have?
About a month ago I learned that my friend’s 4-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia. I cried as I read the email she sent, describing the events that led up to his diagnosis. She shared what she knew about the treatment he would undergo and the time he would spend in the hospital. She also shared the worries she had for her younger daughter who may not be able to understand what was happening. Certainly this was not the life she had envisioned for either of her children.
This past Saturday a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed by police on Fountain Square. News media and the Cincinnati police shared that the officer involved had no choice as the child pulled a gun on police. After watching the video and reading accounts of the story, this seemed to be an accurate description. But you have to wonder: How did this child come to this place and make this decision? Regardless of what we know or don’t know, this was a 16-year-old child who made the decision to put his life at risk. This was not the life his parents had envisioned for him, either.
When these tragedies happen we tend to want to figure out who is to blame and how to prevent such things from ever happening again. By determining who or what is at fault we feel more confident that the solutions we identify will be effective. But does this work? Can we really find solutions that prevent these types of tragedies from happening? And if we can’t, then are we bad parents? Blaming isn’t going to change my friend’s son’s diagnosis. And who or what we can blame for this shooting – the child, his parents, the police, his friends, our community – doesn’t change the fact that a young man is dead.
It seems to me that what would be helpful is compassion. Through compassion we are able to offer our support and kindness to the children who are the victims of these tragedies, and to those who love them. Compassion requires us to feel from our hearts and disengage from the negative thoughts in our heads. By being compassionate we teach our children to be understanding and generous. We show our children how to give support and not judge others. Compassion can be a source of strength when overcoming challenges and can serve as a guide for decisions and actions. Certainly a life of compassion could be a life we envision for our children.