I have a friend who told me once that "going viral" was on her bucket list. "Just once," she said, "I'd like something I write or a video I upload to go viral. Just to see what it's like."
Now, nothing like that has ever been on my bucket list; but it happened anyway. Several days ago, in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, I wrote a blog post about my 6-year-old son and how it was so easy to look at and see the children of Newtown in him. I didn't do it with any one, particular result in mind. I did it because I couldn't sleep, couldn't stop crying and couldn't make sense of why. I did it because I thought that if I could just somehow get the thoughts out of my head, I would be free of them. I did it because I thought that my friends -- especially those who are parents to similarly-aged children -- might like it and be able to relate to it. I did it for a lot of different reasons. But, "going viral" was not among them.
When I did it, I had no earthly idea that it would have such an impact. But it did. Within 36 hours of posting the piece on my personal blog, it had over 100,000 views, from all over the world. Within 48 hours, it was published here, on The Huffington Post. Talk about exposure. At this point, that blog post has been shared and tweeted and liked and re-blogged over and over again. And I have received almost almost 1,000 messages and emails and comments from all across the U.S. and around the world. It's been surreal.
And, it's been powerful. Because, almost without exception, every single one of those comments, emails and messages have been positive. They have been full of love and compassion and prayers and sympathy for the families of the victims of this tragedy. It's really remarkable. Cumulatively, it must be hundreds of thousands of words...a nd almost none of them has been ugly or hateful. Amazing. Especially in this era of great division. Because, to the contrary, they have illustrated just how united we are in our love for our children (or grandchildren or nieces and nephews or students, etc.). We think of the parents and families in Newtown and we weep. Because we know. We understand.
But what do we do? Where do we go from here? That's the question I've been asking myself for these past few crazy days. Because in addition to everything I just mentioned, many of the messages I've received have expressed great frustration that this happened in the first place and a deep desire that it never happen again.
"Six deserves better. They ALL deserve better!" one woman wrote.
"Please. Please. This has to stop." wrote another.
I don't pretend to have all -- or even any -- of the answers. Like many people, I've been struggling with what I can do from my own little corner of the universe. The dialogue about how to prevent anything this profane from ever happening again will go on long into the future. And it has to happen at levels far above my pay grade. But those children do deserve better. All of our children deserve better. Yes, we have to do something. Change something. Even if it's only our own attitudes -- our own hearts and minds.
To that end, I love what Winthrop University basketball coach Pat Kelsey did earlier this week. In a post game press conference, he looked at the microphone in front of him and he decided to do something. In an impassioned speech, he said that we all have to "step up."
He is absolutely right. We do have to step up. Every single one of us. You and me. If our politicians and policy makers are too busy looking after their own self-interest to listen, we'll just have to do it on our own. We will have to use the microphones of our every day lives to be the agents of change this society so desperately needs. You'd better believe I'm going to use mine. Looking at the faces of those 26 beautiful souls, I can't help but think that it's the very least I can do.