On Wednesday evening I encase my fine china in bubble wrap. The color of cream with an intricate pattern the shade of vanilla pudding, each piece is delicate in a way that makes me think of a sparrow, and I worry I might drop or crush one as I place them gently into boxes. But if I do, I will sweep up the shards and be done with it. Although lovely, they are merely an object.
I’m moving. The home I’ve shared with my girls will be given over to another family, while we take temporary custody of rooms once occupied by others. The process of moving, this dismantling of a shelter where we’ve lived and loved for five years is part of a life ever-changing. We must not hold onto a space as if it were a life. We must not care about our possessions as if they’re what makes a life. Knowing this in a way only the hardship of the last years can teach one, I’m at peace with this move, with this letting go of the old and looking toward the new. All our things, our possessions, the size of our incomes, are merely trappings of ego. They’re not a life. I know this now.
But as I perform these tasks with my hands, I’m not thinking of any of this. Instead I’m reeling from what happened earlier. While I was working on my latest manuscript, and my children were at school, and my boyfriend was at work, and I was lulled into thinking the people I love most were safe, tragedy unfolded in California. Yet another mass shooting of innocent people. Fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, friends, lovers – people who are loved like I love mine – gone.
There was Paris just weeks ago. And the list goes on and on.
This is not a political writing about gun control or immigration or terrorists. I don’t know the answer to any of it. I certainly wish I did, but I am an ordinary woman of average intelligence, and the problems of this broken world are too complex for me to know how to fix. All I know is that evil exists. The deliverers of all that hatred, that evil, want to extinguish love. The more we love, the more they want to destroy us. There isn’t a thing we can do about it. This helplessness heightens my terror. This helplessness strengthens my anger.
As I wrap the final piece of china in bubble wrap, I think of Cliff at his office, and the girls at dinner with their father and I know that a madman with machine guns could take them all out. My precious girls who cried for Paris and this gentle man who tears up at the thought of a hurting child could be in the path of evil, and all their goodness would not be enough to fight against it. How I wish I could wrap them all in plastic bubbles. I want only to keep them safe. That’s all. I love them and people are a life. They cannot be replaced. If evil takes them, my broken heart could not be swept up and tossed into the trash bin. My heart is more like the sparrow I imagined earlier, delicate, vulnerable, and easily crushed.
Of course those I love most cannot be wrapped in plastic bubbles, or even kept inside whatever space is our current home. I understand this. We all have to live. Hiding away in fear gives evil further victory. So we must continue forth. We must do our chosen work, learn our math lessons, shop for holiday gifts, decide on ham or turkey for Christmas dinner, squabble over who cleaned the cats’ litter box last. We must plan for the future as if it were guaranteed, even as we know it is not.
I propose this, too. Might we actively love one another with words of kindness, acts of service, choosing compassion over judgment, with the idea that every moment of good chips away at evil? Could all that love somehow fight against hatred? I don’t know, of course, but I want to think so. And it certainly doesn’t cost us anything to be kinder, more forgiving, more generous to one another as a way to pay our respects to those taken by evil. May their deaths not be in vain by our actions.
And the ones we love the most? We must hold them tightly while we can, thankful for every moment we’re given, loving one another fiercely despite the hatred all around us. We are only guaranteed this moment, right now, in which to love. To waste it is to let evil win.