After a very hard weekend for our city, I’m reminded of a scene from that fount of wisdom, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (we have the VHS if you want to borrow it)…
At the beginning of the third Act, Kirk, McCoy, and a team of scientists are trapped in an underground cave system on a dead moon, while Khan (the bad guy) flies off with a doomsday machine. TheEnterprise is damaged and can neither chase Khan nor retrieve the away team. It is a most hopeless moment.
“Is there anything to eat?” Kirk asks as he sits down. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m starved.”
McCoy is indignant: “How can you think of food at a time like this?”
Last night and this morning I reminded our teachers that we trust them to do what they considered was “developmentally appropriate” for their classes. Middle School history classes were, ironically, already discussing the Holocaust and antisemitism through the ages. They talked about the pervasive influence of evil, always, in the words of Genesis, “crouching at our door.” 4th and 5th graders were discussing this topic as well and could place the events in Squirrel Hill in a larger narrative framework. Younger students were free to discuss their responses with their teachers and were encouraged to pray for the victims and the community at large.
And meanwhile, another chick hatched in the 1st Grade incubator, bringing us to eight distracting babies! A student came in from recess to get a band-aid on his knee. The 4th/5th-grade chip peddlers came by my office at the usual time. We judged a few posters about the golden rule. An inflatable cow was seen heading upstairs. Kids talked, or didn’t, to whom they needed when they needed.
The same things happened at the same times they always do because that’s what everyone is used to… and “what we’re used to” is our best tool for helping kids mature through events like this. Keeping the routine – while simultaneously telling kids that we’re also sad, angry, or scared – reminds kids that we can lament while not despairing, we can grieve without being crushed. We live in a bent world; darkness thrashes against the light, but it will not prevail. We might have to adjust our step, or even take a different route from time to time, but we will keep marching.
It might seem a sacrilege to “think about food at a time like this,” but that’s what our kids need right now. Please, turn off the news coverage; put down the phone; read the Bible together; go to bed on time (for once). Cook, play, run, wrestle, dance, pray. Ask your kids how they’re doing; tell them how you’re doing, and pass the potatoes.