This past weekend our community was shaken to its core when a man wielding an AR-15 opened fire on a local synagogue during a baby naming ceremony. His bullets ripped through the temple stealing 11 innocent lives, ranging in age from 54 to 97 years old. It seems so cliché to say that sons and daughters lost their parents, grandparents were stolen from their grandchildren, a husband and wife died together. But it’s accurate. That’s exactly what happened. A monster opened fire on a community worshipping together because his heart was filled with so much hate that he decided to murder them.
I didn’t know any of the victims. I’m not a practicing Jew. This wasn’t my neighborhood. The closest connection I know of currently is the family of a friend of a friend lost their 97-year-old aunt. But for some reason it still hurts to see this. It hurts more than when I’ve read the stories about shootings in other cities in our country.
Sunday night, after attending an event were Magda Brown, a Holocaust survivor spoke, my friend and I drove by Tree of Life. The street was blocked, but the broken glass and shot out windows were visible. I didn’t see them, she mentioned it. I couldn’t actually bring myself to look carefully at the scene where so much blood was shed for nothing. Instead, I saw the memorials the community had put up. Stars were hanging from barricades and flowers were piled high with notes written in Hebrew.
We talked about how we couldn’t understand how someone could make the choice to do something so awful, whether it be the atrocities in the Holocaust or the murders at Tree of Life. It’s something I will never understand, because it is a choice. It’s a choice to hate. It’s a choice to pull a trigger. IT IS A CHOICE!
Last night, my eldest daughter (she’s 4) came downstairs after being put into bed. She walked over to me, her eyes looking down at the floor and her little hand held in a fist below her nose. She knew she wasn’t supposed to be out of bed, yet here she was. When I asked her why she was out of bed, she mumbled, while still looking at the floor, “Mommy, I’m afraid that the monsters under the bed are going to get me.” I told her there were no monsters under her bed, besides her bed has drawers there’s no space for monsters. Then she said, “Mommy, I’m afraid about the monsters in the closet. And maybe a Bogart sized monster will come out from where Bogart sleeps.” Bogart is our 16 pound miniature schnauzer.
I took her hand and took her upstairs. I grabbed a lavender spray I had in my room and took her to her room and started to spray it all over, in the drawers under her bed, in her closet, behind her shelves, and in the bathroom where Bogart’s kennel is kept. Then I told her that the spray was to keep monsters away. As we spoke I said, “You know, M,” we call her M for short, “There’s no such thing as monsters. They’re made up. You have nothing to be afraid of.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew I was lying to her. There are monsters, they’re just not hiding in her closet or under her bed. They’re out there in the world and they’re much harder to spot since they look like normal people. They aren’t fuzzy with gnarly teeth and claws. I tucked her in and immediately wrote this:
I lied to you tonight, to make you feel better. You told me you were afraid of the monsters that were under your bed and in your closet. I told you that monsters weren’t real, and there was no reason to be afraid. I lied to you.
When you said you were afraid there might be monsters hiding where Bogart sleeps, I told you there were no such things as monsters. But that was a lie. There are monsters everywhere, waiting to do evil. There are men that kill people while they pray.
You told me that you were afraid that monsters might be hiding in your drawers. I took your hand and showed you that there were no monsters, because monsters aren’t real. But that was a lie. There are monsters waiting to kill children while they go to school to learn and play.
I wish that I could protect you. I wish that I could keep you in my arms. I wish that I could rid the world of this evil hatred. But for now, I’ll just hold you close and whisper in your ear, “The monsters aren’t real.”
Madeline, I lied to you tonight. To make myself feel better.
I wish there was more that I could do to protect my children and keep them safe. I wish there was more that I could do to save this world from itself. But for now, all I’m going to do is raise my children in love, knowing kindness, knowing God, and showing them that good things this world has to offer. Soon enough they’ll see the bad. Right now it’s my job to show them the good.