I usually write about the intersection of strategy, leadership, and customer relationships.
I usually try to provide a straight-shooting, snappy perspective on situations we all face when we go to work each day. I go for tongue-in-cheek on regular occasions.
It’s been grey in Chicago the past two days and I’m glad. It matches the mood that has fallen over our country since the bloodshed at Sandy Hook Elementary. Some days ought to be gloomy. This is one of them.
If you’re at all like me, you’re somewhat affected by Sandy Hook partly because you have a natural empathy for people who are enduring unspeakable tragedy. But perhaps even more, something strikes you that makes you put yourself in the scene. It’s like a funeral I attended for a friend’s father recently: I grieved because I saw my friend completely undone by the sudden loss of his dad. But privately, I was living – in advance – my own father’s funeral. I know that’s coming someday. For an hour, I was previewing it in living color.
Sandy Hook was someone else’s story… until it wasn’t.
Maybe it was when I saw an interview with a 4th grade boy who told of bullets flying past him in the school hallway. Over the past seven years, I’ve coached scores of 7-12 year old boys on my soccer teams. That boy could have been Austin or Aidan or Joe or Brad. Suddenly, I was closer to Sandy Hook.
Maybe it was when I saw a 3rd grade girl telling her story as her mom held her. Some of my closest friends have a 3rd grade girl. She was at my house last night, full of personality, smiles, and attitude. Watching her and enjoying her presence, Sandy Hook was that much closer.
Maybe it was the fact that the Christmas liturgy my church had been using all this past week had focused on solving problems without violence. I had been puzzled by that theme as I listened to it. It didn’t seem Christmasy. Now it seems eerily prescient.
Like you, I’m left with more questions than answers. The deepest ones – why did this happen?, why do horrors like this happen at all?, what is God doing in the middle of all of this? – were the kinds of questions that led me to major in philosophy in college. The wise teaching of professors and mentors and pastors gave me some answers to those questions. When the sun comes out again, I think they will be helpful. Today they taste like dust.
My friend, Eric Anderson, took a really good swipe at some of those questions in his post yesterday. It’s worth reading though I need more sunshine, Mozart, or Verdi before I can completely get there.
I guess I lied at the beginning of this piece when I said I wouldn’t write about strategy and leadership today. I do have one question for us all as we consider Sandy Hook: Is this going to just be a tragedy or will it be a turning point? Sadly, our world is full of tragedies. We had many bombings and mass killings before and after 9/11, but that day was a turning point for our country. Nothing was the same afterwards. You could easily argue that the results of those changes were far from positive, but that’s not my point. I’m simply saying that together, we collectively said “We’ll never be the same” after 9/11.
Will Sandy Hook be only another sad day for us – another Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Aurora – or will it be a turning point? Issues of violence in our culture are complex and no party or interest group has a monopoly on the insight into the problem or the potential solutions. But for all of us who have any sort of influence, the question that should rightly haunt us is this: tragedy or turning point?