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Rod, Gun & Game: Look for a silver lining during this time of national tragedy

SPRINGVILLE — I was about 6 years old when Sister Mary Angelina, my first grade teacher at St. Augustine’s parochial school in Depew, opened my windows of curiosity and wonder into nature. It all started with a story she shared on a very rainy day.

A nasty thunderstorm brought heavy rain and scary lightning into Western New York, that day. We were all sitting there, wide-eyed, as thunder crashed. She said, “Kids, listen to me. Don’t be afraid. The storm will pass, very soon, and, after it does, we’ll all have a great, big surprise.”

She took our minds off the noise and redirected our interest to asking what the surprise would be. It was something that I still remember, almost 60 years later, and look for, after every storm.

Once the gale was over, she took all 28 of us outside to watch for two things. “No. 1,” she said, “There is a silver lining that follows every big storm: the moments when that last, dark cloud is trying to sneak by, with the sun that was behind it.” A moment passed. “There it is, kids!” she said. “There is our first surprise: the silver lining on the edge of the clouds! Isn’t that beautiful?” We all agreed, because it really was an awesome sight.

No. 2 followed, only a few minutes later: a magnificent, colorful rainbow. We watched, as an entire spectrum of beautiful, bright colors provided an amazing picture of nature’s doing some of its best work. We went back in the classroom and she asked us, “Now that the storm is over, what did you kids think of that surprise?”

One student said, “I’d like to pray and thank God for keeping us safe, so that we can see those beautiful surprises, all over again, after the next storm.” Another student said, “I want to sing. It always makes me feel better.” Immediately, the phonograph was pulled out and we listened to a song that was part of the whole story, to begin with: “Look For The Silver Lining,” by Bing Crosby.

I look back and recall that our teacher changed our lives, that day. In the same way, some of the teachers changed the lives of surviving students at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. We learned about nature and the fury of a rain storm and that, after the fury is over, some good things do happen. Let’s hope that good things will happen in the future, from the tragedy we all witnessed.

This childhood story of nature and conquering fear is always brought to my mind, when I am trying to find the trail to a safe haven in thought. Like many freedom-loving Americans, I find it hard to not think about the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Singing a song isn’t going to make the dark clouds go away, right now, and I’m not sure that the silver lining is clear for anyone to see, at all, but I know that there is one.

The outpouring of support for the families of the little ones is high on my silver lining list, as is the performance of the first responders and emergency services, the police department that was there so quickly and saved even more lives, by sounding sirens enroute and President Obama, who shared the tender and deep compassion of a nation deeply shaken in heartbreak for the families and community. Leadership was displayed by many sources, at the scene.

While life can change in moment, for any of us, let’s not forget that we have the outdoors and nature to help us find solace and peaceful thoughts in times of immeasurable sorrow. Set a few moments aside to give thanks for all the gifts that we share, as Americans, every day.

In my first grade classroom, we said the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag, every day. God and prayer were common for everyone and our moms were home, when we returned from school. There were chores to do and we had responsibilities. We communicated, face to face, cried together and laughed together. I often heard from my mom, “Just wait until your father gets home!” The family unit was together. Life was about “we” and not “me.” It was a different time.

Not everybody received a passing grade, in school. Every year, some kids failed and were left to repeat the grade. They tried harder, the next year, and did improve. Our policies today of, “I’m OK and you’re OK” are great, but not everybody learns how to handle failure, that way. When I was out of line, my dad whacked my backside, something I did not enjoy. Today, kids call child services. It is a different time. On Sunday, we went to church, as a family, with everyone else. It was a different, safer time.

As investigative agencies peel back the layers of the details, regarding the sad person who caused our nation to grieve so deeply, perhaps some of the important things that our courts and small interest groups have removed from our schools, our families and our lives might be reconsidered.

No new gun laws are going to keep people who require mental health care from seeking attention in other ways. We all can agree there is no rational explanation. Some legislators want to affix a knee-jerk reaction, instead of confronting the real issue: changes in society and mental health. They want to rewrite the Second Amendment. Guns do not shoot themselves.

If only Congress and the anti-gun advocates would keep to common sense and relearn the heritage of our great country, they would realize how we were, when things like this did not happened. We already have 28,000 gun laws in our country; most of them are not enforced. Politicians, this week, immediately want new gun laws. They ride the emotional agenda, even before the victims have received their final services. It’s unthinkable. The investigation might show that this was caused by mental issues, not guns. Do we need a new amendment to address this disregarded issue of mental health? We all deserve better than legislative rhetoric.

Parents have changed, too. Soccer and hockey games on Sunday mornings dispel the opportunity to take care of what folks in my childhood would never agree to bypass in their place: church services. There used to be priorities. There were moral rules that everyone learned, as they grew up. Kids knew better than to touch a gun. We didn’t need locks; we knew better. Today, please keep your firearms locked or in a safe and control the key.

Today’s culture has changed so much, that we are familiar with and often condone graphic violence; it has become common on TV, in the movies and elsewhere. Kids’ video games are played after school, before parents arrive home. They underscore the graphic violence; do these help plant some of the wrong seeds?

We need to do something, but the continuing mass tragedies seem to be providing identification to the bigger problem that may take more than a new law or two to fix: social morals, respect for fellow man, honesty, faith, hope, charity and people. It has gone somewhere.

Take a few moments to sit down and share some of the gifts that nature has provided, in real life encounters with wild creatures, birds, ducks, squirrels, rabbits and deer. These can help bring us to uncharted, peaceful moments for our imagination and curiosity.

On windy days, look to the sky for that silver lining. As treetops are blown in the wind, listen to them talking in the language of the woods. There is timeless good fortune to be found, in nature. This season, all of us may need to find a few moments, in this manner.

What can we do to get back to the great, safe, country that we once enjoyed? Search out that virtue of silver lining, to be found in your life, each day, and share it with your neighbor. Remember that we are all neighbors and can share the revitalizing moments of joy, to be found at this time of year, all along our ways of travel.

Happy holidays to everyone!

Cougars reverse 100-year decline
According to www.sci-news.com, cougars, or American mountain lions, are re-emerging in areas of the United States, reversing 100 years of their population’s decline. The research, which was published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, raises new conservation questions, such as how humans can live alongside the returning predators.

According to Dr. Michelle LaRue of the University of Minnesota, “The cougar population declined dramatically from 1900, due to both hunting and a lack of prey, leaving the remaining population isolated to the American West. Today, we find hard evidence that the western population has spread, with cougar populations re-establishing, across the Midwest.”

Three main cougar populations exist in the Midwest, centered around the Black Hills in South Dakota, but cougars are venturing far outside of this range. One male cougar from the Black Hills was found to have traveled 2,900 kilometers through Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York, before ending up in Connecticut.

Outdoor calendar
Jan. 6: Rochester/Southern Tier Quality Deer Management Association, free seminar, Honeoye High School, 83 East St., 7 p.m. For more information, call Mike Edwards at 585-813-2021.

Jan. 19: Southtowns Walleye Association, used fishing and hunting equipment sale, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Reserve $10 tables by Jan. 17. For more information, call 649-8202.

March 2: Erie County Federation of Sportsmen annual banquet and awards dinner, Father Justin Knights of Columbus Hall, Cheektowaga. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 655-0975.

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