Over the past several days as the depth of the depraved tragedy in Connecticut has slowly sunk in, we have all asked ourselves and those around us one question - "What has the world come to?"
I've been thinking; let me try to answer this question.
The world has come to one insane shooter. One. I think it is important to remember that. One mentally ill human being does not mean the world has become an evil and heartless place. Quite the opposite, I think.
In the same school where such a horrible thing happened, many quite remarkable things happened. We are told that a teacher who well might have been able to run away, virtually shielded her children with her own body, and gave her life to save them. That is an act of love so much greater than the act of hate. We are told of small children comforting their peers, of teachers with remarkable bravery hiding their youngsters and keeping them calm, of a principal and a counselor who apparently confronted the gunman and slowed him, saving who knows how many lives.
Remember them, not the gunman.
They are what the world has come to.
From across the country and around the world, thousands and thousands of people are expressing their concern for survivors and families, sending cards or money or whatever they can, just to try to do something to help. Several people in Storm Lake have contacted me for the school's address because they simply want to show some love.
That's what the world has come to.
You know, it doesn't stop there. Right here in Storm Lake, our Adopt A Family for Christmas program finished its mission earlier than ever before, with 187 families adopted in what, not even two weeks? One father tells me his children each gave up getting a Christmas present of their own, preferring to go shopping for gifts for someone needier than themselves. Thousands of dollars have been donated to our Mr. Goodfellow program to keep needy children warm this winter, with us hardly having to ask. I could tell you of people who forego buying a coat for themselves in order to help a child have one.
That's what the world has come to.
Do you remember when the real-life Santa left $100 under the plate at a local cafe when the good-hearted but problem-laden waitress opened up to find a meal for a stranger she figured was down on his own luck?
Do you remember the Storm Lake fireman last summer, who learned that a woman's small dog was trapped inside a burning house, and fought back inside through the thick smoke to carry it to safety, both covered in soot? It was my favorite of all the moments I have photographed from the past year.
And it is what the world has come to.
Remember the sheriff who got crushed by a car, out on foot in a blizzard, because he put helping others ahead of his own safety? Or the passers-by who plunged into a frozen creek to rescue a person when their car slid off the local highway and overturned.
I'm pretty sure they are what the world has come to.
People helping to build Habitat for Humanity houses in the Storm Lake area, some of our college students using their precious days of spring break from classes to go repair hurricane-damaged homes for people they've never met, or to work with orphans in farflung corners of the world.
People who have stopped to help someone who is stranded or hurt, who have stepped up to prevent a crime, who have donated some of their own food to one of our food pantries, or staged a fundraiser for someone who is ill. Their stories are not sensational ones that dominate headlines, but they happen virtually every day. Hundreds in our community donate their time and talents to efforts for which they will receive nothing. Riding with the Patriot Guard to make sure our fallen soldiers have the sendoff they deserve. Delivering meals to those who are alone on Thanksgiving, serving on a committee to help get a stage built for local students to perform on, all those who work at Santa's Castle to make sure kids have a special holiday. More causes than I could ever mention here, more hours than anyone could ever calculate, right in our town, and multiply that by the thousands of towns out there where people give so freely of themselves.
Yeah, all this and more is what the world has come to.
Come on, you've seen the stories, and smiled. The parents who made their son's wheelchair into an ice cream truck as the coolest Halloween costume ever. A doctor who made a cardboard sign with a crayon, offering free medical care to victims of Hurricane Sandy, right on the street. The police officer who bought shoes for a homeless man. The Texas A & M students who blocked the hateful Westboro Baptist protestors with a human wall. The Michigan soccer team that gave a friend with Down Syndrom a chance to play. During a protest of angry people with signs saying "God hates fags," the brave young kid who wrote "God hates nobody" on his notebook and stood in front of them holding it up. Our soldiers, who facing strife of their own, hand out the few treats they get from home to the urchen children of someone else's country.
A hundrend, a thousand, a million times more powerful than one sick man with a gun. More love than there could ever be hate. Remember this, please.
This is what the world has come to, thank God.