A Letter to My Daughters About the Paris Attacks – Kveller
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A Letter to My Daughters About the Paris Attacks

Dear Girls,

I’ve never been to Paris. I’ve never seen the Eiffel Tower while standing on the banks of the Seine, or gazed at the contours of the Venus de Milo where she rests at the Musee du Louvre. I’ve never kissed a lover in the Luxumbourg Gardens. I’ve never eaten a choux from a bakery I’d find at 35 Rue de Vaugirard, but the word tastes sweet in my mouth just the same.

I can’t go to Paris today, but I don’t want to. The borders are as good as closed, and Charles de Gaul airport is patrolled by armed soldiers. Restaurant windows have been shattered by bullets. Passersby lay roses at the entrance of the Bataclan concert hall. Forensics teams are briefed on dismembered bodies as they set to bloodied streets with their very many kits: this one for trace-evidence collection, that one for trajectories; this one for lifting pattern prints, that one used for excavation; this one used for impressions, and that one used for blood collection. (That one’s worst of all.)

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You know nothing of this. You are fighting a war in the kitchen over who has to put the cap on the markers, while others in this world are fighting for humanity. You are shouting about how it’s unfair that you have to clean up each other’s messes, while radical jihadists are shouting “Allahu Akbar” before blowing themselves up on city streets.

Is God really the greatest?

Maddy, you came home last week from school with a beautiful illustration you drew in response to the following prompt: “Abraham searched for one God. Where do you find God?” You designed an angel in flight, its wings outstretched and face aglow in the light of a golden halo. When I asked you where you look for God, you told me, “In the sky.” When you asked me where I look for God, I told you, “In your eyes.”


If you want to look for God in the sky, my loves, by all means, go ahead. Look for constellations Cassiopeia and Lyra. Look for the v-formation of birds in flight, or the stellar dendrites of snowflakes, or the way the Coriolis force affects the dance of clouds. Watch God wax and wane.

But cast your eyes to the earthly realm, too. Look for God in the smells of each season. Look for God in the waves as they crest, or the brilliant blues of robin eggs, or the forsythia fires of April’s landscape. Look for God on the streets of our town. Watch as the couple that lives down the street holds hands while they walk their Great Dane. Watch when the man driving the Subaru stops to let the man driving the Volkswagen make his left turn. Watch the woman bagging groceries chat with the shopper waiting to pay. See the smile of the barista who calls out “Erin?” while Erin patiently waits for her pumpkin spice latte.

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You’ll find God anywhere you find beauty, kindness, generosity, or love. Some people witnessed the horrors of Friday’s attacks in Paris, and they cried out, “Where is God? God is dead!” They saw violence and chaos, and in the aftermath of terror found evidence of…nothing.

Others, however, knew where to look. They found God on their iPhones, for instance, when the Twitter hashtag #porteouverte was used to inform people about shelters and help services. They found God on Parisian sidewalks, when people helped each other into taxis whose meters shut down after bus and metro lines closed. They found God in cities around the world, which lit up in blue, white, and red in resplendent support of Paris. They found God in the tears of those who wept, of those who embraced, and of those who prayed. Those who decided to find God did, and God showed up where each gaze fell.

I am not a zealot, nor am I particularly observant within our own faith. I have no confident conviction when it comes to anything divine, but I can tell you this: I’d rather believe in transcendent mystery, however painful it may be, than I would give in to loneliness and distrust. Some say that these are dark times, and surely they are right. You are living through an era in which we hear all too often about suffering and helplessness, and we are inclined to give into our own. But the foundation of our home is hope. We are not teaching you to be faithless or feel powerless. Fear, concern, doubt, and heartache…you are entitled to them. But just as you claim them, so too let them be your call to action.

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You are the angels you’re looking for, heralding a future of peace, empathy, and goodwill. I suggest you start your heavenly practice in our kitchen before moving onto bigger things. Once the caps are on the markers, get out there and do your stuff. Most of the world is already in search of you, the evidence we require to believe in possibility and the sanctity of life.

(Daddy and I are already believers. We found you first!)


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