Police and rescue personnel following the shooting on the Las Vegas Strip at a country music festival that killed at least 50 and injured more than 400, Oct. 2, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Ethan Miller-Getty Images)
Police and rescue personnel following the shooting on the Las Vegas Strip at a country music festival that killed at least 50 and injured more than 400, Oct. 2, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Ethan Miller-Getty Images)

When the news is too awful to share with our kids

When I was growing up, my parents never talked to me about what was happening in the world. CNN was born when I was 13, but I was too busy watching soap operas, trying to beat my previous score in Pac-Man and playing kickball in the backyard with my friends to notice.

I knew I wanted to do things differently with my kids. My hubby and I chose to raise them with their eyes wide open. If they could see the world more clearly, and more honestly, we thought, they would understand more deeply why we felt it was their responsibility to help repair what is broken.

But over the past several months, I started to feel differently. Between late August and November, there were so many tragic events too close to home. I wanted to shield the kids from all of it.

Most nights, it’s fine if the kids watch the nightly news with us before heading to bed. But during those months, there were specific weeks when I changed the channel as soon as I heard their footsteps on the stairs. I didn’t want Sophie to see the footage shown on the news that some of the concertgoers in Vegas captured on their cellphones. I didn’t want Samuel to learn the tragic way that 14-year-old Kai Shepherd and 28-year-old Christina Hanson died in the wildfires. I didn’t want them to know that eight members of one family, including a 17-month-old, died in the church shooting in Texas.

The remains of fire-damaged homes in Glen Ellen, Calif., after a wildfire moved through the area, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Justin Sullivan-Getty Images)
The remains of fire-damaged homes in Glen Ellen, Calif., after a wildfire moved through the area, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Justin Sullivan-Getty Images)

It’s not as easy to assure my kids the way I used to. There’s far too much information out there, and much of it is alarming — the bad outweighing the good in the news and on social media. My kids are in high school, old enough to have opinions on all sorts of things, and they do, quite often, but they are also still young enough that what my hubby and I talk about around the dinner table, in the car and on a walk matters. Amid the awful events of these past few months I’ve realized it’s up to us to sort through the mess to find a lens for showing our children what we want them to see. I don’t want them to see only doom, gloom and fear. I want them to see the positive stories:

Mack McIngvale turned two of his mattress stores in Houston into shelters for those seeking refuge during Hurricane Harvey. He posted his phone number on social media and organized volunteers and trucks to pick up anyone who needed help or a place to stay. He housed over 300 evacuees.

José Andrés, the well-known Michelin chef, flew to Puerto Rico five days after Hurricane Maria hit. According to Kim Severson in the New York Times, he “served more than 2.2 million warm meals and sandwiches. No other single agency — not the Red Cross, the Salvation Army nor any government entity — has fed more people freshly cooked food since the hurricane, or done it in such a nurturing way.”

People making their way out of a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water from Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 28, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Scott Olson-Getty Images)
People making their way out of a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water from Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 28, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Scott Olson-Getty Images)

During the Vegas rampage, Taylor Winston, a Marine veteran, attended the concert with his friend Jenn Lewis. Once the shooting started, they ran to safety, but wanted to help. They found a truck nearby with keys in it, hopped in and drove back toward the concert area searching for the most severely wounded, loaded them on the truck and drove to the nearest medical center. Taylor and Jenn made a few trips and helped over a dozen victims.

Rather than evacuate his home in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood the night of the Tubbs Fire, Don Riveras chose to stay behind banging on doors, warning neighbors to get out. If it wasn’t for his efforts, many of his neighbors might not have made it out alive.

I want my kids to hear more good news stories than bad. I want them to know you don’t need a cape or superpowers to be a superhero. I want them to know even when life events feel overwhelming you can still do your part to help repair what’s broken just like Mack McIngvale, José Andrés, Taylor Winston and Don Riveras did. I want them to know it’s cool to be a mensch.

Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a Bay Area writer and the editor of the Jewish lifestyle blog Florence and Isabelle. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children.