How I Avoid Despair After Tragic Headlines

Every once in a while I’ll see a news headline that’s so horrendous I can’t even click on it. But by then it’s too late. I already know. Details inside the story will add layers of sadness, and maybe put a finer point on the general feeling of grief.

And on the one hand I’ll wish that I’d never heard the news. But on the other hand I’ll feel a duty to read about it, to know the details, to feel the grief, as if not ignoring the things I don’t want to know somehow honors the victims.

It happened today with the headline on CNN.com: 6 children killed in school bus crash.

That’s the sort of thing that ruins my world, and at the same time, makes me value my world.

How does something like that happen? Monday morning, six kids left for school, probably excited to have a short week, followed by a long weekend. Their parents kissed them goodbye, told them they loved them (I hope), and then went about their days.

While the kids were at school the parents went to work. Maybe they thought about their Thanksgiving menus. Maybe they spent a few minutes online shopping for Christmas gifts. Whatever they did, they didn’t know what was coming.

And why should they? How many hundreds of bus rides have their kids taken without a care? How many millions of kids ride to and from school every single day without incident? The odds of anything happening are astronomical.

But then something happens.

Investigators are going to look into the speed of the bus. The driver is cooperating. Whatever that means. Driving conditions were clear and dry. No road construction. Something happened. Busses don’t just flip on their side and hit a tree without something happening.

And yet it almost doesn’t even matter what happened. Six kids. That’s what matters.

Stuff like this ruins my world because it makes me wonder how our world can be so fucked up that something like that can happen. Those kids were just coming home from school, and because of a bad decision by an adult, or a freak accident, or whatever….

And we just ended one of the worst presidential campaigns in history, and I worry about the direction of our country, and doubt the wisdom of the people leading us, and wonder how the decisions they make will impact my children in years to come, and then this.

How am I supposed to worry about the kind of world that my kids are going to face in thirty years when we can’t even guarantee they’re going to be safe this afternoon? Who the hell cares if they have no breathable air, or healthcare, or clean water when they’re my age if we can’t even get them home safely from school?

But that’s despair. And if you give despair a damn inch it will eat you alive and you’ll stop moving, stop trying, stop improving. So then ten years from now, when you’re still here, and your kids are still here, you haven’t made anything any better than it was before.

So despair can’t win.

That’s how this sort of story makes me value my world. I’ve got four kids. I dropped two of them off at school this morning, as I do every Monday morning. And they made it home safely. Tonight, I tucked them in, and we recited the same routine we’ve repeated literally hundreds, or thousands, of times.

Tomorrow morning I’ll wake them up at 6:45. I’ll feed them breakfast, make their lunch, and then I’ll leave for work. And they’ll go to school shortly after. Then, as I always do when things like this happen, I’ll think about them every few minutes throughout the day, and I’ll watch the clock, and when I know they’re home safe and sound I’ll breathe a sigh of relief.

Another day done.

I hate for days to pass because I don’t want them to get older, but I love for days to pass because I want them to get older.

The world is full of horrible things.

But my world is full of my kids. And as long as I can tuck them in at night, then I can handle whatever happened during the day.

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