Amy Brenneman
Amy Brenneman

January 19, 2015

My plan was to write about my trip to Europe…

My plan was to write about my trip to Europe, but now, a week later, Europe has impossibly, horrifically, come to us.


Flying back to LA with my dear, frail parents in tow. They are coming for an open-ended visit. I have nothing to write about it so far, — no Tweet-y quips or funny pictures. They are 88 and 86, and in need of great care which I will attempt to provide, with a lot of help, over the next few months as they wait out the brutal Connecticut winter in sunny LA. I am sure I’ll figure out things to write about them over the ensuing weeks but for now let me say: they are frail. They are beloved. We will try to walk through the next months with as much grace, humor and dignity as we all can possibly muster. This moment in time, universal as it is, is not for the feint of heart, eh?


I just spent a week in Canada shooting an episode of “Reign.” I left LA the week of Je Suis Charlie and Je Suis Nigeria – events that were so impossibly brutal it was hard to fathom. I was grateful to disappear into corsets, a fantasy world and kind people on a set that was not my own. If you watch “Reign” – and even if you don’t – please know that Adelaide Kane, Tobey Rigbo, Torrance Combs and the rest are the sweetest, most professional and friendliest folks this day play could ever hope to find.


In the weeks after the “Paris Shooting” (it has a CNN name now, just like 9/11 did), I was in need of simple kindnesses. I observed them and appreciated them. Canadians are impossibly kind, so they were everywhere:


A homeless man on the street in Toronto. His sign read (I kid you not): “I am homeless. If you could spare some change, that would be great. If you can’t, have a great day anyway.”


A coat checker. As is my custom, I left some money as a tip and walked away with my coat. “Excuse me!” she called after me. “You left your money behind!” I asked her if they accept tips, and she explained no.


She just wanted to make sure I didn’t forget my money.


The nightly news in Toronto that yes, reported on terrorist activities, but spent as much time on a story of a grandma with Alzheimer’s who wandered off. She spent 12 hours in frigid weather and found herself in the passenger seat of a man who discovered her when he got into his car to go to work. He called the police, helped her family find her and said on the news, “it was the right thing to do.” (As an American, it struck me that because he was not a gun owner with an itchy finger, he chose not to shoot this woman for trespassing on his property.)


He was also a Sikh with a turban. In this moment of religious warfare, I feel compelled to give you that detail.


Thank you, dear Canada, for being gentle this week. You were a soft place to land after the Paris Shootings.


I left my phone in my trailer this week as I worked. It was not far away, but it was not at my fingertips. I had a good week. Once again, the double-edged sword of the Internet; we know so much about the atrocities worldwide and for that I am grateful. I can do what I can, take an action if there is one to be taken, send a prayer to the war zone if not. But those atrocities also make us aware of the depravity that humans are capable of. Who knew that 2,000 Nigerians could be slaughtered so effortlessly?


And so, the dilemma. Does having those possibilities for horror in our heads take us out of our actual day, which is most likely populated with kind and decent folks? Is the fascination with horror more compelling than the appreciation of everyday kindnesses?