Category Archives: guns

The Helpers

During a week like this, when bombs filled with shrapnel explode at the finish line of the iconic Boston Marathon, our federal government fails to represent the people they were elected to serve, an explosion levels a town in Texas, letters laced with ricin are delivered to Senate offices and the White House, and an entire metropolitan area – and our nation – is terrorized, we must, as Mr. Rogers suggests, find the helpers.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'”  — Fred Rogers

At six and four years old, my kids are still young enough to be shielded from the news (#gratefulmama).  I don’t have to tell them about bad people and scary things that happen in the world, and I don’t have to explain to them how to look for helpers (yet).  But, believe me, I’m still searching for them.  I’m searching for them because I need to see them.

Thankfully, I’ve found a bunch.

Like Team Newtown Strong, a group of parents from Newtown who ran the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon to honor the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook massacre last December.

Like the courageous volunteers, first responders, police, doctors and nurses, and concerned citizens who ran toward the blasts to help victims.

Like the marathon runners who ran straight from the finish line to nearby hospitals to donate blood.

Like the generous Bostonians who gave money, clothing, food, and shelter to cold, hungry, lost, and stranded runners.

Like Newtown father, Mark Barden, who lost his seven-year-old son, Daniel, at Sandy Hook and vowed on the White House lawn to keep fighting for common sense gun control because, in his own words, “we will always be here because we have no other choice.”

Like Gabby Giffords for whom speaking is difficult but made her feelings crystal clear when she wrote in the New York Times, “I’m furious.”

Like the first responders and volunteer fire fighters who raced into the fire in West, Texas.

As a blogger, I spend a lot of time reading other blogs.  I just happened to discover a new one recently called Chasing Rainbows where author Kate Leong writes about her journey to raise her children, including one with special needs.  A week ago, just when I started reading her (beautifully written) blog, her five-year-old with special needs, Gavin, died.  I hadn’t even read enough to know what his disabilities were, but in the end, a series of seizures and cardiac arrest took his young life.

Like Kate Leong who asked her readers to honor her son’s life by doing one simple thing – to help someone in need.

Like little Gavin who in death has already save a life with his kidney donation.

On Friday, I attended the Women’s Fund’s Annual Power of the Purse Luncheon.

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The Women’s Fund is Miami-Dade’s only organization directing all its energy toward creating equal opportunity, access, and influence for women and girls.  Leadership development, reproductive justice, economic security, and freedom from violence are just a few of the issues in which the Women’s Fund invests.  In a place like Miami, where the community is diverse and the socio-economic, ethnic, and gender disparities are enormous, an organization like the Women’s Fund, quite simply, saves lives.

Their luncheon brings together more than a thousand people each year and celebrates an entire community of women and men who make a difference in the lives of women and girls.  While madness unfolded in Boston on Friday, I sat in a ballroom in Miami bursting at the seams with helpers.

And purses (#shopaholicmama).  Oh, the purses!  A silent auction, including to-die-for bags and purses, has become a hallmark of the luncheon.

Salvatore Ferragamo

Salvatore Ferragamo

Prada

Prada

Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg

Lanvin

Lanvin

There were tons of other silent auction items, too, including this one, which had my name all over it!

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Alas, there were no owls to bid on (but I’m not angry or anything).

The Purse is definitely a powerful catalyst for change. For me, though, the real power is the People.

One of the speakers at the luncheon was a teenage girl who beat the odds and broke the cycle of poverty, abuse, and teen pregnancy that swallows girls whole in her neighborhood.  Another was a woman who fought her way back to freedom and economic independence after a sexual assault in the military led her to addiction, crime, and incarceration.

Yeah, as it turns out, finding helpers was easy.

Like the two courageous women at the luncheon who became helpers by merely giving voice to their stories.

Like the hundreds (thousands?) of Bostonians who took to the streets on Friday night to cheer for the police.

Like the stranger at Blue Martini in Fort Lauderdale who bought a round of drinks for everyone at the bar, including perfect strangers, because he wanted to remind people that even in the midst of great suffering, we must remember to experience joy and live life to the fullest.

Like my six-year-old son who gave his ice cream money to a friend at school who forgot to bring his own (#proudmama).

But what about now?  Now that the mayhem is over, the adrenaline has receded, and regular television programming has resumed, will it be as easy to find the helpers?  Will we even be looking?

At Friday night’s press conference after the second Marathon bombing suspect was finally apprehended, I was struck by something said by Col. Timothy Alben of the Massachusetts State Police.  He said, “We’re exhausted.”

Exhausted, indeed.  But let’s keep looking for helpers, okay?  And let’s keep helping.

For Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Martin Richard, and Sean Collier.  For their families.  For the injured in Boston.  For the victims and their families in Newtown.  For West, Texas.  For Gavin.  For women and girls.  For our kids.  For each other.

Did you look for the helpers this week?

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Filed under death, fear, Grateful Mama, guns, Proud Mama, Shopaholic Mama, Uncategorized

The Gun At The Park

I’m at the park with my boys and a good friend’s son, Samwise.  Samwise is a code name, because privacy is always my first priority (for other people’s kids, anyway).  That, and wouldn’t be cool to have the name Samwise?  It’s a gorgeous Florida “winter” afternoon with a warm sun and a cool breeze, and the playground is filled to the gills with kids, moms, dads, babysitters, and even a few grandparents.  Dylan, Riley, and at least a dozen other children are chasing squirrels, and Samwise and I are sitting on a bench.  I’m on Facebook (surprise!) and Samwise is stuffing fists full of Quack’n Bites in his mouth when out of nowhere, Samwise says, “Hey, that guy has a gun.”

I immediately have three thoughts:

(1) Samwise is three years old.  He’s just as likely to say, “That guy has a gun,” as he is to say, “A unicorn ate my nose.”

(2) In the post-Newtown (Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech) world in which we live, it’s not wise to say something like this in a busy public place (in the same way it’s not a good idea to talk about bombs at the airport).

(3) F–k, is there a guy at the park with a gun?

I look up in a panic to find a young boy – about nine or 10 years old – with an assault rifle of the brightly colored, plastic, Nerf variety.  It’s a toy.

Ask my boys if I like toy guns, shoots, shooters, or whatever the heck you want to call them (Nerf calls them blasters), and they both know the answer.  No.  I can’t help it that occasionally we come home from the toy store with a Transformer or Star Wars character with an attachable – and thankfully, easily lost – weapon.  But actual guns?  Forget about it.  I can’t control a lot in this world, but I can control this.

The toy rifle at the park is as attractive to the kids (the boys, especially) as a candy-filled piñata.  Dylan keeps his distance.  (Good boy.)  Riley picks it up and examines it while the gun’s owner is on the swing, but when I ask him to put it down, he complies and says, “We don’t like shoots, right, Mommy?”  Right.  “Shoots hurt people.”  Right.  (Good boy.)

On an idyllic afternoon such as this, there are “common property” park toys everywhere, including sidewalk chalk, a football, a soccer ball, and a remote control monster truck.  Everyone plays with everything, and it occurs to me that I might be the only Mama who thinks the big gun is wildly inappropriate.  Fortunately, I’m wrong.  Soon, I hear a Mama say, “Isaac, put it down.  I don’t like that.”  And then another.  And another.

At one point, the young boy points his gun to no one in particular and pulls the trigger causing a “pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa” sound.  He does this two or three more times before stopping.  I cringe.

When the sun begins to set, we head home for dinner and a bath, but I can’t get the image or the sound of the gun at the park out of my head.  I think about Gabby Giffords, the children in Newtown, and the teachers who tried to protect them.  I think about wise Uncle Ben who tells Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  I think about Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Smokey the Bear, and how it’s just as important to have a shift of values in our homes as it is in Washington, D.C.  I think about how my disdain for guns has thankfully rubbed off on my kids.  (If only my love of kale had the same effect!)  I think about how in one small park in one small town in one county in the state of Florida in the United States of America, I was one of many who were uncomfortable with the presence of a toy gun with semiautomatic sound effects.  I think about how beautiful it is to be a living, breathing cog in the wondrous phenomenon known as change.

Editor’s note:  It took 679 words for me to express my thoughts on guns.  At yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, it took Gabby Giffords just 71:

“Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

I don’t like guns.  It’s okay if you do, but I don’t.  If you want to learn about or engage in a movement to enact common-sense gun laws in our country, check out One Million Moms 4 Gun Control.  (Or don’t.  I won’t be upset.  Promise.)

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Filed under guns, making a difference, toys