I fought back the tears as I drove away from my children’s school after dropping them off this morning. They were exceptionally brave on the ride there. I tried to be more chipper than usual, asking questions and starting conversations. Mia and I are not morning people, so our early morning ride is usually quiet except for the occasional “Gus, stop!” whenever his morning hyperactivity gets to be too much. Today, though, I felt the need to fill the silence. I flipped the radio from station to station, trying to avoid any DJ talk of anxious students and teachers returning to school. Christmas music – happy Christmas music was what I wanted in their ears and thoughts.
Mrs. W, their principal, greeted them at the curb with a wide and welcoming grin as they piled out of the back seat. She always smiles that way at her students. She genuinely loves them, you can just tell. I wanted to tell her thank you, or beg her to keep my children safe. Instead, I smiled back and said, “I hope y’all have a great day!”
Maybe it was her smile that did me in. As I pulled away from the curb after calling, “I love you” at my children’s departing backs for about the 10th time, I glanced once more at Mrs. W’s face and tears began to well up. I believe – no, I know – that just like another certain principal at another certain elementary school far away from our own, this woman would put her life on the line to protect my children. To protect all of her children – for that is what she calls them when they are in her care.
I didn’t actually cry, however. I blinked those tears away. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve cried many tears for those precious slain children and the adults who died trying to protect them. No. I wasn’t going to cry because my children put on brave faces and marched into their school in spite of the anxiety I know they felt. I wasn’t going to cry because Mrs. W showed up for work today with a smile on her face in spite of the stark reminder from a few days ago that her job of loving children could potentially cost her her life. I wasn’t going to cry because I refuse to let a deranged young man steal joy and freedom from my family. I wasn’t going to cry because I refuse to live in fear or to teach my children to live in fear.
Can I know with absolute certainty that my children will be 100% safe? Do I believe that they are totally shielded from any possibility of violence or tragedy? Of course not. But I spent a lot of time this weekend weighing the good and the bad, the known and the unknown, the sure things and the murky possibilities. When it was all said and done, I decided to put on my brave face, blink away the tears, and drive my children to school. After all, God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self control. (II Timothy 1:7)
Maybe tomorrow, or the next day, or sometime after Christmas, I will feel the brave that I choose to live.