Friday, January 25, 2013

Reading, Writing, and Tears in Heaven

Jim Schaefer

This year, I again learned that reading and writing are not just wonderful skills to be used as well as I can in my teaching and personal lives, but they can also provide comfort even in the worst of times.
I came to this realization when I sat down to write our family’s annual newsletter and heard and saw the terrible news that a young man had shot and killed 20 elementary school students and 6 adults with a high-powered assault rifle. I must confess that I was terribly saddened, both as a teacher and as a person, by this horrific incident, which was sharpened even more by the details that some of the five- and six-year-old children had been shot as many as 11 to 12 times with high-velocity bullets.

To relieve my sorrow, I did three activities. First, I re-read one of my favorite books, We Carry Each Other: Getting through Life’s Toughest Times (Conari Press, 2007) by Eric and Sharon Langshur. These two authors urge people who experience hard times or the hurt of a loved one, to respond with compassion and caring. We may not be able to change the circumstances, but we can move through the situation together, find openings to help one another, do acts of kindness, and help in the healing process in visible ways.
Second, I shared my thoughts, both in my actual family’s newsletter and in my virtual family’s newsletter of the Eastern Michigan Writing Project’s eMuse. In both situations, writing to each community has provided a kind of healing in itself. As Eric and Sharon Langshur (2007) observed, we need to turn to our families and our communities so that we can celebrate our victories and share the pain of our defeats. Then we can try to make sense of what is happening and achieve a certain amount of serenity and peace.
Third, I must also confess that I also used my media literacy to create a video in response to the slaughter of the very young students in Newtown, CT. I could not use any images from the situation there and sought online images of young children simply crying as a visual counterpoint to the music of Eric Clapton singing, “Tears from Heaven.” Some of you already have seen that video, but if not, you can watch it at Yes, in this experience, I found that reading and writing helped me, both as a teacher and as a person.

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