I didn’t get to watch much of the news yesterday. Slept through the 7:00 hour and was well into conquering the day when I later overheard a group of news anchors on TV talking about the latest school shooting and the fear that we are becoming too accustomed to stories of this nature, only with more casualties and therefore more media attention. Consequently, these “small” incidents pass almost unnoticed.
So when I was browsing through my old blog for today’s trek into the past, I was struck by this little piece from almost 10 years ago (December 21, 2003).
I get the paper on the weekends but I confess, I don’t read much that’s in it. I scan the headlines and the front page to see what’s inside. Then I skim the first section to see if anything catches my eye. I work my way through the pains, problems and situations plaguing people, countries and the globe, and then I dive into the editorials, where my head will spin with replies to just about every letter. It’s good practice in organizing thoughts, even writing letters that I never seem to get sent in. Then it’s on to the funnies, toss the sports section to the guys and the classifieds to my eldest who is looking for work, and I’m finished.
The trouble with this approach, I have learned, is that I’m not seeing real people behind the headlines.
For example, here’s a little blip on the front page of the paper that I didn’t even bother investigating:
LATEST NEWS: FBI officials think the man who robbed a northwest Oklahoma City bank Monday also struck Thursday.
BACKGROUND: There have been 50 metro area bank robberies this year, compared with 15 last year.
WHAT’S NEXT: A reward is offered. Page 6A
Long before you get to robbery #49, you just kinda tune out.
Until you go to a Bible study group and learn that the teller who was held up was one of your friends.
Then you start to really think about it.
This guy waited in a lengthy line on Thursday, which means he might have very well cased out which teller he would approach. My friend would seem an easy target. She’s my height or perhaps just a little shorter, and on some of the windy days we’ve had lately you might be tempted to hold on to her for fear she’d blow away. There she is–at the window, doing her job, being warm and friendly as I know her to be even on a bad day, and inch by inch he’s patiently moving toward her. Then instead of getting a greeting in return, she watches him pull something from a leather bag, and put it on the counter in front of her. Checks? Rolls of coins? No. She finds herself chest-to-barrel with a semi-automatic pistol.
I can’t say I would not have fainted. I can’t say at all what I would have done, but I know my heart would have dropped to my feet, at the very least. Now, instead of checking to see if she has the proper ID or the endorsements she needs for the transaction she expected, she’s struck by the idea that the bank is very full, and if she does something stupid, a lot of people could get hurt, not to mention how close the barrel of the pistol is to her heart. She can’t get to help without raising suspicion and so she does as she’s been trained–do what you feel safe doing. The money and the pistol go back into the bag.
And then he walks out.
What is left behind?
My friend is okay. And she’ll be more okay as the days go by, because she has a sure hope and a firm faith, and knows that this kind of thing happens in the world we live in. But how does she look down a long line of customers and not wonder just who may be in that line?
But what about the other 49? What if those tellers didn’t have the support system to see them through? The experience could be haunting every second that passed since it happened.
And how do I read the next newstory without wondering how long the woman in this bit of news, desperately afraid, tearfully pleaded for her life before her estranged husband shot her, and where was her daughter hiding through all of it and how can that little girl ever have a normal life? Or is the woman with Hepititis C, thanks to a careless health “professional” re-using needles, past tears now, and just resigned to the illness? Or does she cry into her pillow every night, wondering how much longer she has to hold her grandbaby and watch him grow?
I know that in a few days, I too will be fine. I need to be, because delving into every newspaper article on an emotional level is crazy–much too draining. But, I do hope I can remember to be compassionate. When I meet the next person at a door who wants to snap at me, I want the presence of mind to consider that maybe she’s spent the night tossing and turning, thinking about “what if it were me or mine?” Or maybe it was her or hers, and that’s all the more reason for me to be kind and offer a word of comfort.
As I mentioned recently, this is one of the reasons I write. History–my history, Chistina’s history–unrecorded gets forgotten. While the bad memories are rightfully erased by the joyous occasions in life, like better jobs and beautiful babies, the lessons that troublesome times can teach remain important.
It’s nice to be reminded of what’s important.