Near my home is an elementary school, and every day I hear the sounds of children, among them three of my own, given some reprieve from learning about indians, reindeer, dinosaurs, numbers and all that God has created. When I dropped my daughter off to kindergarten a few years back, I had a hope that when one dies, the course taken is not unlike the way five year olds line up, brave under backpacks, and walk through a door after being greeted by the kindliest persons, getting to work coloring upon tables seating six new friends whose names they’ll learn weeks later, around tables named for colors, everyone at the blue table learning letters to music, and at the yellow playing with blocks and all the air is full of sound and color. Can any parent step into an elementary school and doubt that it is hallowed ground? Here is a temple to last the ages, with walls of little abcs, lunchroom tables folded high but waiting, and covered by crude sketches of Cleopatra or The Greeks. And its breaching: an omen of something too, now too late, we realize, a thing made secretly in our midst to last nearly as long, but by other means.
So today at my youngest daughter’s christmas program, the heartbreak was palpable, the sense of shame evident at what we’ve allowed to grow while all the world sought for wealth, digging pits for our neighbors, grasping at his throat; and now the awakening to an awful situation, as I did on Friday to my wife’s report, having slept too late. But thirty little six year olds sang We Wish You A Merry Christmas today, like they really hoped it might be: something I’ve not heard behind those lyrics for a very long time. It was received as every message is received when found inside a temple.
We are some twenty years into a new growth of of maybe a very ancient evil, only now daring to do what is unthinkable: walk into these temples, snatching its holy priesthood, or to blast away at children gathered to build gingerbread houses: with doors made of gummy bears, who find their way home by the light of gumdrops hanging from candy canes, made only to take to real homes and set upon their dinner tables, all crooked walls and missing candies, in the delightful slop we wise adults have long forgotten to enjoy. There are still places where humans believe in gingerbread homes, cinnamon bear neighbors, and candycane lampposts, and they labor daily in our only true temples to our good and loving Creator. And so the breach of that place last Friday signals the work of an evil we’ve let grow in the best neighborhoods, and one which, I fear from the sense of something like facing a very long hike, we will struggle against for a very long time.
While we have slept in carnal security, an army of darkness has been gathering, and the hearts of many men have waxed so cold that they cannot understand the awakening to grief so many Americans have this week realized, and in many cases have not themselves begun to understand, of some sign divined when the name Sandy Hook entered their hearts. The children huddled in closets colored with red and green crayons while the gun and its master delivered their siblings and neighbors to some holier classroom, gingerbreads left unbuilt; leaving, these blessed souls, this new evil among us, for some reason forced Friday into desperate acts, being ripened in iniquity, surely, but not only this: there is panic among the demons, for too much good has been left to grow in too many little Sandy Hooks, and they are too late to stop all the Wishing of Merry Christmases and shaking of little bells, and the building of cities upon cities of gingerbread buttressed by icing and roofed in sugar wafers, built not like fortresses for a millenia, but for an evening, and for evenings everlasting.