It's time to have the talk.
You've probably spoken to your kids, grandkids and other children on many occasions about the importance of doing the best they can in school, not texting while driving, not talking back to adults and not stealing.
And in an age-appropriate manner, you've probably spoken with them about bullying and the birds and the bees, as well as those things that routinely distinguish one of us from another, including homosexuality, weight, hair color, wealth, body piercings, race and ethnicity, and religion and spirituality.
You might have even told them to never ever put their hands on mom or dad's gun.
But have you had the talk?
The discussion begins with teaching and right from wrong and helps children and other young people distinguish between circumstances that matter and those that do not.
Have you had the talk about what really and truly matters in life — life itself?
The fury unleashed Friday in Newtown, Conn., opens the door wide to such a teachable moment.
Within a couple of hours of learning about the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary, you probably pondered or asked aloud the usual questions.
Oh good Lord, not again.
At a grade school?
How many are dead? Alive?
Who did it?
Is the gunman dead or alive?
Was he black? White?
Atheist, Jew, Muslim or gentile?
Dropout, college educated or home-schooled?
Loner or extrovert?
How did the gunman acquire the weapon(s)?
Were they stolen or legally bought and registered?
Were Nazi symbols carved in his head? Did he have tattoos?
Even before cameras and microphones relayed the understandably welled-up eyes of President Obama on Friday afternoon, none of that really mattered.
It didn't matter whether the bloodletting led to loss of life at a traditional, public charter, private or religious school.
Nor did the politics of your preferred media outlet, as reporters, producers and camera crews all had to do the best they could in the immediate aftermath to keep their emotions in check.
The time of day didn't matter either, although the overwhelming majority of us can relate to what occurs during the first hour or so of what appears to be a typical school day.
In the grand scheme of things, it didn't matter whether individual households in Newtown went through calamity or calm awakenings.
Whether travel times were punctual or out of sync.
Whether Christmas gifts had been bought and wrapped, or naughty-nice lists were still being written.
Whether the sky was sunny or storm clouds foretold dark events.
Whether the shooter's actions were sparked by uncontrollable urges or as planned as newsroom deadlines, the pealing of church bells, the timing of traffic lights, the timely openings on Wall Street and the time clocks in a factory.
It also didn't matter whether batteries were in the remote control, if you couldn't find your earplugs or didn't hit have time to hit the treadmill that morning, or if your child is an English-language learner, or if Republicans and Democrats had reached an agreement to avert the "fiscal cliff."
And it certainly didn't matter whether you owned a laptop, tablet, PC or smartphone, or if you finally figured out how to shrink your family's carbon footprint, rearrange the family room for a wonderfully smelling evergreen or finally mastered the art of making potato latkes.
It won't even matter what happens with the guilty party, since there will be no arraignment, jury selection or legal arguments over judicial venue.
What matters is teaching, indeed showing, young people that life itself matters.
We talk about a lot of junk with our young people, and in the end it's just that, junk.
Peace and good will toward all.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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