On Friday the 21st, the one week anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, I got up and did what I have not done since moving to Pennsylvania – I went to a weekday church service. Again, this was very uncharacteristic of me.
The reason why I went was to show in some small way my support to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Another reason I went was in anticipation of sharing a moment of silence – hopefully, with others – ideally, inside a place of worship. I also thought it would be somewhat magical hearing bells ringing from inside a church. I didn’t know exactly what the bells would sound like – well, I know what bells sound like – but growing up I always heard bells ringing from afar – never from inside the Sacred Heart Church on Linden Street in Springfield, Massachusetts where I grew up.
A few months ago I returned to Springfield, Massachusetts for my 50th reunion and I drove by the street where I grew up – unfortunately, except for Sacret Heart Church, my street, Linden Street, no longer exists and all the apartment buildings are gone – also gone is the Sealtest Dairy where we used to grab containers of milk from the loading docks and run to an empty field and toss them at each other.
Back to Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. Amazingly, I got to the church technically “on time”, by my standards. I walked into the sanctuary of the church just as the Priest was walking down the aisle to start Mass – of course, the regular parishioners were already standing in place in anticipation of the Mass beginning.
Mass started promptly at 8:30 and my memory of daily mass was that they usually lasted between 25 and 35 minutes and today was no different. Mass ended roughly at 9:05 and most of the dozen attendees started filing out to get about the rest of their day.
In addition to me, 3 others stayed behind. I thought they also might have thought there was going to be some kind of announced or unannounced moment of silence followed by the sounds of bells – all to show respect for those who lost their lives in Newtown, Connecticut. On a side note, during the Mass, there was no mention of the Sandy Hook tragedy, nor was there any mention of a planned moment of silence or if the church bells would chime around 9:40 or so.
I really got into the quiet. Being retired, I usually have the television on or I am surfing the ‘net, or both. There is always some noise – even if it is background noise – such as a television program that I am not watching while I am reading emails or blogging.
This morning was different – very different. I was anticipating the quiet reflection. I figured I had 30 – 40 minutes to reflect – time to examine what really mattered to me.
I might be wrong but I think I nodded off once or twice and each time I immediately looked down at the smart phone hooked to my belt to check the time – God forbid I nodded off through the moment of silence scheduled for 9:40. I would have been so embarrassed to wake up and find the church empty.
You lose track of time during total silence. Absolute quiet can sometimes be deafening – but I found this quiet to be somewhat pleasing. All of a sudden I was alert – it was 9:38 and I repositioned myself, sitting straight up in anticipation of sharing the moment of silence with the few that remained in the church and everyone across our country and elsewhere in the world.
The priest who celebrated Mass came back into the sanctuary from the vestibule several times – going into one of the back rooms and then exiting. He did this three or so times – so I was sure he was going to appear in the next minute or two and walk up to the altar area and announce the moment of silence.
Unfortunately, 9:40 arrived without any announcement or church participation. I was still silent but I started to feel empty. My gut told me the bells were not going to ring and that I would leave church void of what I eagerly anticipated.
While walking to my car, I looked back and wondered exactly what just took place. I felt a little cheated – but then something happened – a bell did go off – but it was my own internal bell – and I started thinking of them – the 26 kids and adults who died almost 7 days earlier – to the minute.
I then realized it truly was about them – and not me. The victims were on stage and I was simply a participant who came to honor them.
The good thing is that it got me out of my apartment – away from the television – looking forward to something – and being in the game, so to speak.
After driving away from church, I stopped by a local diner and had breakfast and while eating I reflected on the thoughts I had during my quiet time – family, friends, and life in general – where I was in my life’s journey and where I wanted to be.
What happened to me at church was that I came to the realization that I need more in life – more than my HP laptop computer and my Dell desktop computers, my Smart Sony bigscreen HD television and my periodic blogging. I need to be around others on a more frequent basis – to smile at others, to shake hands, to hug, in essence to participate instead of sitting in the bleachers and watch life pass me by.
Sure, I get out – I go to the grocery store several times a week and I go to a restaurant or two and less frequently, I take in a movie. In past relationships, I loved going out to eat and then to a movie, as a couple, but now that I am divorced, I seldom enjoy neither. My companion when I eat out is the current novel I am reading, which I readly admit is a less enjoyable partner. The servers tell me that I am predictable. After getting seated, I ask for a menu, and end up ordering the same thing all the time. At the end of placing my order, they chime in with my drink request, “Diet Pepsi with about an inch of Dr. Pepper.” We both laugh and then she walks away to place the order that she has memorized months, if not years, earlier.
Tomorrow, I am planning returning to church and I plan on attending again on Christmas Day. I plan on contacting an engineering firm to visit the church to make sure the structure is sound and will not collapse as I enter. I jest.
So, what I am trying to say is that Sandy Hook has changed me for the better.
I know that almost everyone has been affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook – and I hope and pray it results in something positive – that the lives lost were not lost in vain.
I also hope that some changes are made that might reduce the likelihood of mass shooting in the future.
So, how were you affected by the events at Sandy Hook – whether by the shooting itself or the response from across the U.S. and the world? Have you changed your position on anything? Have you made any “New Year’s resolutions” so to speak, a week or so early? Have you made a commitment to change in some way?
I have decided to begin attending church on a regular basis. I do not know if it will be the Catholic Church I visited on Friday or if it will be the Methodist Church on Main Street or the Mennonite Church about a mile from me. Either way, I am choosing to plug back in. I owe this to the 26 individuals who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Do you have anything to share? If so, please leave a comment. Also, please take part in the poll questions.