Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thoughts after Arizona's Tragedy

      One of my roles as a staffer in an inner city library was to serve teen gangsters and homeless guys who pretended not to sleep on the dirty vinyl chairs.  Every night there was a new drama.  Drunks would throw things at the glass doors. Teens regularly gathered and at the entrance, with nowhere to go and nothing interesting to do.  This fact usually meant that they got into trouble. The police were called at least five days a week for incidents as minor as panhandling and as serious as assault.  I was one of the assaulted. But I still kept working long after a homeless patron attempted to strangle me during closing time.  It was only later, when a man arrived waving a semi automatic at the group of teens that I decided to leave for good.
     I'm not a martyr.  I lobbied for security for months but this was repeatedly denied.
     So I'm home now. There are no more books to shelve, people to assist, or crazies to manage.  There's no driving social concern to bring up at every meeting.  There's just me, our son, my husband, a dog, a cat, five fish and some plants.  I don't have a regular paycheck, but I don't miss the extra money.  I have learned to see my life in terms of other kinds of assets.  The real value of my life is now measured not in the things I know or the numbers in the bank.  My biggest assets are the people who keep loving me despite my faults.   Another asset is my ability to wait patiently for inspiration, for direction and for peace.  Another is my ability to teach myself new skills and to stretch myself creatively.  And after watching the coverage of the Arizona tragedy, I'm reminded that the biggest asset is simply my life.
    I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Arizona.  There's no way to comprehend the depth of grief that those families now face.
   At home I am privileged to be safe, warm, healthy and free to think and feel, to work and go about my ordinary life. But my friends who still work at that library do not always have those luxuries, just like many people who work on the front lines, with a public that includes increasingly violent and unstable individuals.   Librarians, teachers, students and political leaders are not the only people who have this nagging, unsettling worry.  After 9/11 we are all afraid.  There's never enough security to put us all at ease.
I've recently been asked to join a focus group for safety in schools.  This week I'll attend the group's first Forum.  I'm not sure what value I can add to the discussion.  Does it make a difference when concerned people gather to discuss the issues?  Or is it a complete waste of time?
Wishing you peace....
~Jenny

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