Reading The Paper

The Next Family

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

afternoon sky

In the newspaper today, I learned a little about the six people killed in Arizona.  I learned that a little girl wanted to grow into a veterinarian; I learned that an older couple had found each other after a long life.  I learned that a young man was looking for an engagement ring.  All of these facts are powerful to know.  Knowing them makes the loss of these six people that much harder.  I am reminded that I have a young daughter who loves animals, that my neighbors have been married for sixty-five years.  I think of the story my husband tells about finding my own engagement ring.  These facts bring these strangers closer to me.  And I mourn their loss.

In other parts of the paper, I learned that a man had been mauled by a dog while on vacation, a plane had crashed, more people had died in Iraq.  It didn’t say whether the man was married or whether he’d played baseball or been a member of his church choir.  I didn’t learn anything about the people lost in the plane crash or the men and women snuffed out by yet another exploding bomb, but I thought about them.  I thought about how some of them probably liked toast with jam or the smell of jasmine.  I thought about how each of these people had a favorite song, a best friend, a beloved pet.  Like me they might have enjoyed a good book or secretly spooned ice cream from the carton at ten in the morning.  Like my husband, they might have watched football or made their own barbecue sauce.  I don’t know anything about these people and yet, this morning, because I knew a little about six others, I felt more connected to everyone.

Terrible things often remind us of what is good in the world.  Loss reminds us of that with which we cannot bear to be parted.  Today I was reminded that underneath all our opinions and emotions and frustrations and despair, we are still people who might eat ice cream, go to the movies, bake pies, join bowling leagues, chop firewood, volunteer at school, sing songs, fall in love.

I looked at each person today not just as a body, but as a life, and when I did that, I found that I could be more forgiving, more accepting, more understanding.  That guy driving fast down my street might be late for a job interview; the surly kid behind the coffee counter might have been up all night working on a history paper.  I tried to imagine these people laughing on the phone or playing cards around a table.  Details made them human, made them capable of making mistakes, and of making reparations.  These are hard times filled with angry words and I am doing my best not to add mine to the mix.

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