Everyday Orinda – December 2019

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In Wake of Shootings, Some Charlie Brown Wisdom

    December. The month of jingle bells and joy. Ho Ho Ho vs. No No No. Sure, I could write about Secret Santa debacles or the pressure of attending a cookie exchange amidst everyone’s life threatening allergies and dietary restrictions. But my heart keeps returning to the victims of the Halloween night shootings and imagining how painful the holidays will be for their families this year.
    Our city is getting some major side eye for appearing more focused on regulating Airbnb rental parameters. While I do not believe this is accurate, I can also see where actions can easily be misconstrued in the wake of an unexpected and heartbreaking tragedy.
    Sometimes wisdom emerges where you least expect it. “I think the City Council is just trying to do something—anything— to feel like they are helping,” my daughter observed. “If they just did nothing, it would look even worse.”
    Be still my heart. I spy with my little eye some frontal lobe development. She’s right, we must do something. Every actionable item is positive. Addressing rental parameters is a good start, but it is only the beginning. Even if we don’t know what to do, it’s better than doing nothing, while fervently hoping someone else has an idea.
    Are we stymied because we are all afraid of being laughed at, criticized, or ridiculed for a proposed solution? I’m reminded of A Charlie Brown Christmas , when Charlie Brown and Linus take a snowy walk to the tree lot to purchase a small Christmas tree, as if somehow that will miraculously solve the problem of Charlie Brown’s inability to corral his pageant actors and relieve his crippling sense of ineptitude. Charlie Brown and Linus get deep. They look to the stars. They talk about miracles. They make, what initially seems like an absurd mistake, buying the iconic, pitiful little tree. Yet somehow, as a result of their actions, there is a happy ending.
    I get it now. Sometimes there is no logical way to solve a problem, but it does not mean the problem is unsolvable. Sometimes we stumble on a solution, but we must first be willing to try.
    The day after the shooting, I read a school-wide email from Miramonte Principal Julie Parks, who reassured parents that teachers and counselors had been informed of the Halloween tragedy and were on alert to address issues students might have. She listed some “prompts” that staff could use to ensure classroom dialogue about the event. One that struck me was “What gives you hope during difficult times?” Sadly, I went to bed pondering that prompt, and the only answer I could come up with was, “Nothing.”
    The next day, however, brought improvement. On my morning run with my dog, optimism resurfaced. I envisioned a headline above a long article in The New York Times that read “Why Did Gun Violence Subside After Orinda Mass Shooting?” Visualizing that imaginary headline somehow gave me hope. Could this event become a catalyst for change?
    We are a smart, conscientious group, unfairly labeled as citizens who are “shocked by violence in their own community.” While I will not dispute the concept of the “Orinda Bubble,” we have all seen so much senseless violence in the past decade that we would be fools if we didn’t feel like it’s a nightmaish, cosmic game of Duck Duck Goose until any one of us is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    But what if this shooting inspired us to actually affect change because it hit so close to home that we cannot look away and become distracted. Maybe we get more involved in charity work – mentor an underprivileged child or someone who is the first in their family to attend college. Maybe we vow to do more in underserved communities.
    Maybe we make five ornaments for our tree, with the names of each of the five victims, so we are reminded to send healing love and light to their families throughout the holiday season. Maybe we skip a gift or two and instead donate to each of the victims’ Go Fund Me accounts, or start an education fund or a teddy bear drive for the children of the victims.
    Oshiana Tompkins, 19, was her mother’s only child. Money raised from her Go Fund Me account will allow her mother to access grief counseling. Oshiana, who, as a friend said on the Go Fund Me page, “had a smile that could light up the room,” was also an organ donor. “Her final act was to help others,” said a family member.
    Omar Taylor, 24, was hired as a deejay at the event. Friends said he was known as a hardworking father, supporting his 3-year-old daughter. Music and deejaying brought him happiness. “He wanted to be successful, he wanted to take care of his family,” his stepmother told KGO-TV.
    Raymon Hill Jr., 23, was a musician who grew up in San Francisco and lived in Oakland. “I am ripped apart,” said his father, Raymon Hill Sr. “He was the greatest. He was genuine, loving and loyal. He loved his music,” Hill’s father told ABC News. This father has lost three sons to gun violence.
    Javlin County, 29, had taken his two children out to trick or treat that evening, before the party. “Javlin’s sense of humor and genuineness always shone brightly and touched many,” a cousin wrote on a Go Fund Me page.
    Tiyon Farley, 22, looked forward to welcoming a newborn son in March. “Tiyon was a great brother, nephew, cousin and friend,” his older brother wrote on Tiyon’s Go Fund Me page. “Tiyon was a big family guy. He had a great sense of humor, a huge heart, and was selfless and ambitious.”

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