The news over the past week or so has been bleak. In the season of peace and goodwill to all, we have seen violence and hatred. Two innocent people dead in Sydney, 148 school children and their teachers slain in Peshawar, eight young lives brutally cut short in Cairns. And each mourned, reacted to and reported upon so very differently.
Not long after Xavier died, there was a news story about a lost life. I can’t remember the details anymore but I can vividly remember my feelings. This life lost resulting in a nation mourning. This life weighing somehow more than Xavier’s. This life holding the attention of the entire country. My boy slipping away unnoticed.
We have seen cascades of flowers and tears for the two lives lost in Sydney. The reporting on that terrible siege carried us on its tide. There was no avoiding it. The radio, the television, the internet, the papers full of one story and one story alone. Even if we were miles away, it was happening in our country – it felt personal.
The actions of a lone man felt like an attack on all of our freedoms, our way of life. And the national reaction was a response to that threat. Showing love and beauty in the face of fear. A sea of symbolic flowers drowning the hateful intentions of one person. Two people died. That is a tragedy. A tragedy that is repeated daily on our roads and in our homes and magnified across the world. The outpouring of grief and support over those two lives was connected to a context that seemed to touch us all.
The thought of hundreds of children slain is incomprehensible. But there will be no tsunami of flowers for those young lives. Lives lost in a far away place where peace seems elusive. Where only the most sensational of war crimes make it to our news. The bits of news that make us sad and then very grateful to live in Australia. The bits of news that make terror seem very far away. The bits of news that seldom compel us to act. If two people died in a siege in Pakistan, we would not know about it. It would not even be considered news.
Eight young lives tragically cut short in Cairns. Behind closed doors. A family matter. A terrible, terrible story but also distant. I do not see myself in the face of the mother who appears to have done the unthinkable. I do not see my childrens’ faces mirrored in the school children of Peshawar – a place so far away and so mired in violence.
But I can see myself in the faces of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson. A mother. A partner. Middle class. Living and working in a safe city. Nothing to indicate that their lives would end so tragically. And so hearts bleed and petals fall.
But what if I could stretch my empathy and imagination to see myself and my babies in that desperately sad situation in Cairns? What if I could see my childrens’ eyes mirrored in the school children of Peshawar?
What would our world look like if we paid more attention? If we felt more? What would it inspire us to do? And how would it impact the world? What if we showed love in the face of hate more often, rather than apathy and despair? What would our world look like then? If every act of terror, act of hate, act of violence was met with an avalanche of flowers and an intention to make the world a better place.