Rick Sanchez exposes world events to his kids and digs for the concept to learn from them. On the events in San Bernardino, his pragmatic nature kicked in. The lesson? Don’t fear. Here are his thoughts.
As a father, I have always sought out “teachable moments.” Those things that happen in life, usually to other people, that I can use as an example in an effort to teach my children something. I’m trying to save them some of the pain of growing up while preparing them for adult life.
The neighbor broke his leg when he slipped on the skateboard his son left carelessly by the back stairs.
“See what could happen if you don’t properly put away your toys?”
Her best friend had her bike stolen.
“So, remember. Make sure you always chain yours up, even if its just going to be a minute in 7-11.”
And then the events of the last two weeks happen and I am dumbfounded. 42 people killed in a suicide bombing in Beirut, gunmen kill over 120 in Paris, 14 killed, more than a dozen injured in the attack in San Bernardino, California. How do I see a teachable moment there and translate that to something useful to my 14 year old Daughter?
I am a pragmatic guy. I love truth and fact, but I also love a good story with a fantastical angle. I love to embellish some of my own exploits for the love of making the story more interesting, and as an amateur stand-up comic, stretching the truth is part of what can make a good joke great.
That said, when it comes to life lessons and teachable moments, I have to revert back to pure fact, statistics and math. That is where I am struggling.
Terror attacks, masked gunmen, suicide bombers…They all make for overwhelming, headline grabbing, horror inducing, news. We follow for days as investigators piece together the whos, whats, whens, wheres, whys, and hows of the tragedy. We grieve with the families and we cry out loud for gun control, closed borders, increased security and anything else that makes us feel safe.
But for what? The truth is, for me and my daughter, there is very little chance that we will EVER be involved in suicide bombings, terror attacks in cafes and nightclubs, gunmen in conference rooms, school shootings, theater killings or any other kind of horrible act of senseless violence. For that matter, we are unlikely to have our home burglarized or have it catch fire and burn to the ground. We are most likely never going to be kidnapped or shot in a drive-by.
From a purely scientific, math based, logical and statistical basis those are not things I should be teaching my daughter how to deal with. Statistically speaking those things happen VERY infrequently. They are big news precisely because they are rare. The commonplace isn’t news. There are no reports on how many successful plane landings there were today at LAX. No one knows how many people crossed the street without being run down. Millions of people surfed the internet without being Catfished. Lots of people left home with their doors unlocked and came home to find all of their belongings still where they left them. There is pretty solid reasoning that says I should almost give ABSOLUTELY NO credence to using any of those things as teachable moments. Ignore them completely, because the probability of them happening is close to zero. I should just as soon prepare her for being hit by a meteorite as for a terrorist attack or random public mass shooting. We shouldn’t have any conversations that start out, “So what would you do if a guy with a gun came into your school?”
And that kind of talk makes me sound naïve, callous, hard. It maybe points to the fact that I am a poor parent. That I am not preparing my children for life in “the real world.”
“When you are standing over your kid’s dead body because you didn’t teach her how to survive when the terror attack comes…” they’ll say.
We have talked about all of these attacks at night during our nightly podcast, Seven Minutes To Bedtime, and we can get into them kind of deep. We pray for those families that are mourning the loss of loved ones and we discuss some of the reasons behind the events. And we discuss the misinformation that gets reported. And we do discuss how to avoid bad situations. We talk about internet security, and personal safety. But mostly, we discuss how to deal with how the world deals with these events.
I think that is where the teachable moment is.
Does the fact that almost all of the acts of terrorism are done in the name of Islam mean that we should condemn all Muslims? Should we be wary of those people we see on the street who wear the headscarves? Should we stop going out to dinner or to the movies for fear of being shot? What would you do if someone in your school starts picking on an Islamic student if the lunchroom? What are some ways we can make this world a better place?
And sometimes we get into the math, too. Statistics show that you are about 35,000 time more likely to die from heart disease, than from a terrorist attack. About 34,000 time more likely to die from cancer. Car accidents kill far more people each year than terror attacks. Good eating habits, obesity, and good driving techniques are real, tangible things that we deal with every day.
I’m a logical, pragmatic parent. And I feel horrible when I hear the news about the 355th mass shooting this year. And I mourn with those who have experienced loss. And I am always on the lookout for “teachable moments.” I also think that I have a duty to dig down and find the right “teachable moment” for the event.
I can only teach my children. Mine will be taught to act appropriately, drive safely and make good choices, comfort those in need, help those who need a hand and to Love Thy Neighbor. Those will be the lessons learned from my “teachable moments.”
What will yours be?
Photo: Flickr/Peter Stevens