There has been a lot of activity in the news over the past couple of days. Two stories, with more similarities than differences, have caught my attention.

I’ve been seeing a lot of coverage about the shooter at Va. Tech–his thoughts, his actions, his motivations. Apparently we as a society can’t get enough of this. We say we study his actions because we want to know how to prevent another tragedy, when I wonder if the truth is that we can’t help but be captivated by it all somehow. As if we can’t resist exploring our own dark side as we watch it unfold in someone else. But what about the people he killed? Do we explore their lives as well, their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations, their fears? No. The death toll is just a number, a gauge by which we measure how messed up this shooter was. What if one of the people who died that day was destined to cure cancer? What if the shooter himself was supposed to be the next Einstein? Or Isaac Newton? How has our collective future been altered by a small moment of time? Potential lost. Paths not taken. Possibilities now maybe never explored.

And then there’s the coverage of the Supreme Court’s ban on partial birth abortions. Again, the media misses the mark. An unborn child is the epitome of unexplored potential, as yet completely untouched by the surrounding world. Limitless paths to explore, unimaginable possibilities, a life not yet begun. But this world is filled with people who scream about taking away the rights of women, as if having the right to kill a defenseless child is something for which we should strive. Of course, I am strongly against abortion in general, much less the inhumane method of partial-birth. I figure if a pregnant woman chooses to end the pregnancy, she should at least have the decency to do it as early as possible, when it could hurt a bit less and be easier done. The partial-birth procedure is traumatic for child and mother both, and I am constantly surprised that doctors can stomach participation. I have three children of my own, and each time I was admitted for delivery, I was told (in legal disclosure) that the birthing process could possibly result in my death, should certain complications arise. Each time I was asked to write out a contingency plan should such an emergency occur. Each time I chose to put my child’s life ahead of my own. The way I see it, I have lived long enough that I have had at least some time to explore my own potential, the possibilities in my life, the myriad reasons why I exist at all. I would never willingly take that opportunity away from my child.

Paths. Possibilities. Potential. In this world, we can get so caught up in all the noise and distraction that we fail to see everything that’s around us. Every day there is a chance to make something wonderful, a chance to impact the world for good. But how fleeting those chances are, how easily taken away. How quickly, willingly, cast aside in favor of something that means so much less. How easy it is to forget that those possibilities exist at all, even when seeing them destroyed before our very eyes.