Caution. This is not a happy, warm-fuzzy post.
I remember, as a boy, feeling like my Dad could make anything happen. Like my Mom could solve a problem with a hug and a snack. Like home was a place that was safe, and no matter what happened, I’d be okay. My brother and sister and I, with Mom and Dad, we’d be okay.
Of course, those are the thoughts of a young boy – a kid, with little experience or understanding of the world, living in a home where his folks loved and cared for him, and worked to make his world a good one. As I grew older, teenage years happened and I rebelled, decided life sucked now and then, argued, grew up, went to college, realized – like many folks – that my parents were much smarter than my teenage self had thought, etc… overall, I had a great childhood… and as a Dad now, I work with my wife to make our home a place that my kids feel safe in. A home that, like the one I grew up in, isn’t perfect, but is nurturing. We work together to make their world a good one.
I’m an optimist. Well, I think I am. Maybe I’m an optimistic pragmatist? My friend Suzi once called me the most cynical optimist she’d ever met, and that stuck with me. I’m pretty sure she meant it as a compliment.
I’m rambling. I’m bothered. After a good, productive, nice day I got home tonight and got in bed to read the news on my iPad before falling asleep, and the Lansing State Journal had 5 articles, right in a row:
Toddler shot in chest after collision.
Man sexually assaulted infant, wife took photos.
Michigan mom, son charged in fatal shooting of girl, 12, over cell phone dispute.
Lansing Detective recounts finding boy in sex offender’s home.
Michigan woman charged with torturing boy, 3.
Jesus. Where are we? All of these things happened within an hour’s drive of my home. Where are we? Not geographically. Where are we as a people? As a lifeform?
I spent 2 hours today talking with a great class of college students, actors, all who are about to head out for their careers. We talked about what the theatre does, why we love doing it, how they can approach their careers and the importance of following your heart and doing something you love.
I spent the evening at the theatre, where a bunch of people came to spend an evening together. Actors, audience, crew, staff, they all came because they wanted to be there. I think that’s a good thing. An important thing. A communal thing that brings us together and can help make the world a better place one or two people at a time.
And then I came home and read the news.
And I know those stories are not indicative of everyone on the planet, and I know the world is also full of wonder and beauty and kindness. I know those things… but I see those stories, and it’s hard to keep the good things in focus. It’s easy to wonder what the hell is going on. And to wonder if some of the things I think are important really ARE important.
I don’t have the answers. I walk around my house, and I look at my son and daughter and wife, all sleeping. I think of keeping them safe, and of the news stories I just read. I think of my parents, and how I felt growing up. I think of them now, in their retirement, and I think of my siblings raising their own families. I think I want to hug my kids until they laugh and roll their eyes and say “Daaaaaaaad!” I think of a line that Joe Zettelmaier wrote for The Sheriff in Dead Man’s Shoes: “I do my part to correct the growing wickedness in the world with small acts of goodness.”
I think we all have to keep trying, and trying hard.
I think I’m going to have a hard time sleeping tonight.
And I think I’m gonna call my parents tomorrow, just to chat.
Tony, I had a similar experience this week, driving home after a beautiful day spent in the sunshine doing something I love, only to hear of a horrific event near my home. The details don’t matter, but as for you, it sure raised a lot of questions. I spend a lot more time listening to and reading the “news” than I used to because it’s my job now. I’m learning a lot about what stories get covered and which don’t, and who gets to apply the editorial filter. You reading or not reading about any one of those sad stories doesn’t change the outcome – but you choosing every day to be a great dad, to hug your kids, to make your beautiful plays – that, my friend, does change things, because you are creating the space for a chain reaction of positives. And I surely do believe that matters, as I want to live in your part of the world, too.
Well said Wendy.
Wendy Walker, you’re the best. Thanks for commenting, and the kind words. I think your point about which stories get press and which don’t is important, too – maybe I’ll start posting Good News stories to try and balance it out! Like the character in Joe’s play, “Small acts of kindness!”. 🙂
Watching the news scares the hell out of me, to the point that I won’t even let my kids in the room when it’s on. Some of the stories are so horrific, I am afraid of what effect it will have on them and their ability to sleep at night.
Some may call me naive, or unrealistic. I call it an attempt to preserve their childhood innocence. Not only would I never abuse my children or knowingly put them in a dangerous situation…but at 5 and 8 years old I don’t even want them to know that world exists yet.
I too, wonder what the hell is going on? Has it always been this way, or is this “never accept responsibility, hate everyone and take it out on the kids” new to our generation and the generations after us? Or with the social media explosion, are we just overloaded with information that in previous generations was kept under wraps?
Either answer to that question is terrifying.
Yeah, Gina, I think balancing that “keep the kids free of the influence of unpleasant things” versus “make sure they know what to watch for and how to be safe” battle is one of the hardest things for parents to solve. We all have to work on just where the line is drawn!
And I think, as far as “Has the world changed”, the answer is most likely a bit of all of the things that you mentioned. Which, of course, makes it tougher because it means there’s probably not one simple solution, or a single magic bullet that can be aimed at a single target!
A bit at a time, that’s the goal! One moment at a time with the kids. One performance at a time in the theatre!
Tony-“trying and trying hard” is right. That’s the only solution because, well, the other is to shrivel up and start doing things like spray tanning on a Sunday or investing in the sale of machine guns in Zambia. That’s the solution, especially for us devoted and impatient theatre-makers. I believe honest story telling to be my driving force that pushes through the soundbites, headlines and rude people at Walmart. I love your comment “One moment at the time with the kids. One performance at a time in the theatre.” Those things can act as mighty powerful leverage in this big, bad world.
Thank you! I think that’s what we all need to keep coming back to – sometimes we just need to remember that we CAN push through the soundbites and headlines, and that every little bit does make a difference. Thanks for commenting!