Driving through town, I ducked my head and pretended not to notice them. Distracted her with a question about school, what does she want for lunch, anything to hopefully avoid the question that comes up way too much lately.
“Mom, why are the flags down on the poles?”
I let out a sigh. There it was. She always notices. How do I explain the tragedy that happened – the evil in the world – to my innocent 4-year-old daughter? How do I take that innocence and break it in front of her eyes?
Our flags have been lowered to half staff almost a dozen times in the past year, solely for the purpose of mourning horrific murders in our nations or nations abroad. That doesn’t even include all of them.
So what do we do as parents, when the visible loom of evil comes closer to home? Before kids it felt like all we had to protect them from were scrapes, bullies, and bad grades. Not this. Not the complete abandon of value for human life.
“Baby … a bad guy hurt some people … the flags are down so that we can remember those people, honoring their life, and pray for their families.”
This kind of statement usually prompts many questions. Questions about who they were, what happened to them. Those questions are hard – sorting through what details to share and what details to leave out – but the biggest value in this life is truth. I could easily lie about why they’re up sometimes and why they’re down. I could tell her anything just to protect her heart.
But that’s not the truth.
And out of the truth comes compassion.
Compassion for others. Compassion for those who are hurting, who are sad, who are lost. Love for those who are different, with different pasts and with different futures. Forgiveness for those who have hurt you, and grief for those whom you have hurt.
While a difficult time in our nation, we use these times to come together more than ever. To remember that life has worth, and no matter how ordinary or sudden the loss it’s still sad and irreplaceable. I may still choke up when explaining, but it’s worth it knowing she’s learning how to truly care for those around us.