The world seems especially dark right now, as tragic world events combine with the early night. So when I saw that Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense were putting on a series of rallies and walks around the country to mark the anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, I knew I had to be there.
This is one of those issues that keeps me up at night—worrying about the safety not just of my own children, but of all the children in this country. At a time of year when darkness descends so early, and when most cultures celebrate light, the rally’s occurrence on the last night of Hanukkah seemed like God’s way of telling me that this was how I could spread the light to close out the holiday.
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I thought for a long time about whether to bring my 7-year-old with me to the rally. Like many 7-year-old boys, he likes to talk about shooting and guns, and, although we don’t have toy guns or play violent video games, he seems to know a lot about it anyway. While I am incredibly thankful that his life has been untouched by violence and tragedy, I want him to understand that there are real consequences to all the violence in our world. So I decided to bring him along.
On the way to the rally, we talked about how violence committed with a gun can never be taken back, and we talked a little about how many people die each day by gun violence. But I wasn’t sure how much he was processing.
The rally itself was incredibly powerful. We heard from a woman and her son who had lost their son and brother to gun violence, and from people who worked with victims of gun violence. We chanted, rang bells, and waved flags. While at some moments my son was squirmy from having to stand still for so long, I could see on his face that some of this was sinking in.
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As we walked back from the rally, we talked about what he had heard. The issue he was most interested in was not what had happened at the rally—the stories he had heard, or the chanting and flag waving that had taken place. Instead, he asked about why I decided to bring him that evening.
I told him I believe that gun violence prevention is one of the most important issues in the world today. After thinking about it for a few minutes, he asked me, “What about climate change?” That led to a lengthy discussion about climate change, its causes, and possible solutions. We talked about how we face all different kinds of challenges, and how we can be grateful for all the different kinds of advantages we have in our lives.
Was I hoping that after this rally he would take up the cause of gun violence prevention? Sure. It is an issue I care deeply about. But for me, the best thing that came out of taking him to the rally was that he got to think about his passions and what he cares about. He got to see what happens when a group of people who care about the same thing come together to harness their power. And he saw that he can have a voice in that.
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And that is how we light up the darkest time of year.