It was a slightly atypical Sunday morning: The little guy was having tummy troubles so he and I stayed home from church. I was wearing flamingo-printed jammies, sitting in my favorite chair, watching my preferred news station and eating a blueberry muffin.
Remembering where you were when you learned of a tragedy is very common. Where were you when the planes were used as weapons? What were you doing when you heard of children being slaughtered in school? How about the horror in a movie theater or a church? On that atypical Sunday, the news stories were of another sadly typical violent event.
But while I was safely in my chair wearing flamingo jammies and eating a blueberry muffin, a change began in me.
As I watched mothers fearfully sob for missing sons who had gone out for a night of dancing, the thought, “Those boys were not much older than my eldest son” ignited a memory flash of a similar reaction when my younger son was in first grade and the news was full of the faces of first-graders who didn’t make it home from school.
For not the first time, I wondered if simply hearing of a victim the same age as my child sent a hot and heavy cannonball of terror to my belly and my heart: What are the parents feeling? I know my brain didn’t let my imagination get near their level of anguish.
While feeling anger, as well as grief, sadness and pain for parents I didn’t know, the news broke for a commercial that made me fight to hold down my muffin.
A man was telling me his fed-up-with- politics-as-usual reasons why I should vote for him for governor. I could have gotten behind the first sentences, but then I saw him holding a weapon frighteningly similar to the one used in the dance club massacre from the news stories I had just watched.
And then he shot that weapon and blew up something, action-movie style.
I have never made a political decision based on a commercial before, but I did that day when he figuratively blew up my vote.
Later, when I told my kids about the evil that entered a dance club, their reactions made me wonder if they were old enough to process this, or if they had processed so much similar horror they were experienced at it. The answer to both made me sad.
The next day, many people on social media thought yelling, arguing and name-calling was the best way to handle the situation. One friend angrily blamed a religion for it, another wanted to loudly defend the Second Amendment while a third was yelling for extreme gun control.
And then a stranger called me an ugly name for stating an opinion. In all caps. It was charming.
My first instinct in the face of those capital letters was to type a response designed to put him in his place with both logic and extensive vocabulary while mirroring his tone. Calm and respectful were nowhere nearby; I was fighting fire with fire.
Then the change switch flipped.
Just because I was offended didn’t mean I had to mirror his approach. I thought differently, so I should act differently.
That moment, I decided to try to take every opportunity to practice kindness in the face of rudeness.
I realized that I could be just as angry as the guy calling me names, but could practice being an example of calm and rational debate in a situation where calm is the last thing I wanted to be.
I was wearing a blue sundress, drinking lemonade and sitting at my desk when I experienced the satisfaction of pausing, deleting and then rewriting an atypical response in a manner that will only become typical with practice.