I enjoy Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “A Wonderful World.” And every Thanksgiving weekend, my family gathers round to kick off the holiday season as we view our “colorized version” of Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.” And I absolutely love Roberto Begnini’s, “Life is Beautiful.” I believe it really is.
I was tucking the baby into bed the other night (she’s ten). It was a very cold night, heralding the onset of winter, and we went through our usual rituals. After I planted the last kiss on her forehead and headed toward the door, she startled me with a comment that caused my footsteps to shift into automatic reverse.
“Mommy, it hasn’t been a very good year.”
“Capri, what do you mean?”
“Well, I couldn’t wait to turn double digits but it’s not goin’ too great.”
“Is something wrong at school? Is someone bothering you?”
“No Mom! School is fine. Something is wrong with the world.”
“Can you tell me what’s wrong? I love you so much. Maybe we can fix it.”
“Everything’s wrong Mom! It has been a very bad year. First the Twin Towers, then the Pentagon, then the anthrax, then Iraq, then the snipers. Those bad men came so close to our house. I think it’s a terrible world. I hope being eleven is much better than being ten.”
My heart sank and my head dipped and my suddenly weak frame slipped softly onto her bed. As is my recent custom, I attempted to be a good listener and I tried not to respond too quickly. No cheap answers. No band-aids. No hurling of Christian clichés. My child was obviously hurting and I was mindful of Jesus’ admonition to mourn with those who mourn.
Three unsettling weeks in October 2002 will always be remembered as a time when fear made its home in and around DC’s Beltway. The sniper shootings terrorized our communities and it was all so very personal. Our children’s sports schedules were cancelled, as was outdoor recess. The schools held emergency drills, many people stayed inside and gas tanks were only filled when necessary. One night, Capri and I sprinted from the door of a Home Depot to our car. I pretended it was a game, much in the same way that the father in Begnini’s masterpiece turned the instructions of the SS into a charade so that his young son Joshua would not comprehend the severity of their Nazi imprisonment.