I was in Littleton with two of our four grandchildren yesterday when the STEM School shooting was taking place in Highlands Ranch, just 2.8 miles from our daughter's home. The older two grandchildren were at their school, on lockdown, unaware of what was happening for two best friends who attend school at STEM. I remembered being with my own, then, teenage daughters (one now the mama of these four baby-grands) twenty years ago when the Columbine school shooting hit the news. And I felt helpless to understand how it is that kids are plotting to kill kids. And I wondered how it is that 20 years later, my grandchildren are practicing fire drills and "an active shooter in the school" drills as if it were a regular part of their day. I felt flattened by what was going on around us as we carried on awaiting news that those we love were safe and grieving the reports of others not so fortunate. Later, I went to another meaningful life for another child of ours who is facing a different kind of fear: The fear of finding her way in this big world (she's even written a new song about that, about facing fears, at Audrey Bussanich). And we celebrated what we need more of in this world. More people who know who they are and what it means. More people, young and old, who have a sense of purpose, belonging, and connection.
Today, I went to work. I'm an art instructor, and I was all too aware that I felt a little "off." A little unfocused. A little bit weary from being present to all that life can bring in a single day and I wondered, "what difference am I making?". So I told my class of 6 adults who are studying watercolor with me that I was a little off and needed to say to them why. In the book Courage to Teach by author Parker Palmer, we learn that teaching with integrity means that, if we're honest, our students get the best and worst of us on any given day. Today felt like one of those days when the worst is winning. Then, I remembered the antidote to the suffering we experience in the world is found in the pursuit of a worthy goal. And today, learning to paint felt like both a noble and meaningless goal, but it is not useless.
Discovering an interest in something that makes you feel alive, something that gives life and beauty to the world is a worthy and necessary goal with the power to silence all that is negative in the world. There can never be too much goodness, beauty, creativity, innovation, aliveness in the world. What new hobby or interest will you pursue to alleviate your own suffering or the suffering of those around you? Let's not hold back. Let's, in the words of Annie Dillard, "Give it all. Give it now" for the sake of ending self-annihilation that leads to the annihilation of others. Discover and be more of who you are. Live with the integrity of self. Figure out what it is that makes you come alive, and that makes those around you feel alive without causing harm. Fill your time with meaningful and life-giving moments and encourage others to do the same because we never know what a day will bring.
Jana L. Bussanich Art & Yellow Couch is the home of Fine Art painting, instruction, and related services. We create and sell original high-quality Fine Art. Creative design; manage commissioned private, commercial, & public art; online classes; art business coaching. Based in Colorado, USA, serving clients worldwide.