You know what my worries have been over this morning?
How can we make time this afternoon to shop for a Halloween costume?
What is the deal with the rug in my foyer always being crooked?
Am I going to make it to the gym on time this morning in this terrible traffic?
Meanwhile, a kid was fighting for his life. A student. A teenager. A friend. A son.
And he lost.
For what? So the guy on the other end of the fight could have bragging rights? You know how I heard about the incident? From a cashier who told me that there was a shooting at Butler, but it was an "isolated incident," as if she was conveying the fact that apples were on sale at Harris Teeter. But only the Honeycrisp.
Why is it that our country has become so desensitized to shootings that we justify them as not being that bad? It only involved two people. No big deal. But, one of those people's lives is over. Forever. The other one is permanently marked by tragedy he brought on himself. One of my friend's kids was in that school. He had to hide in a classroom, and his dad received a text that said, "Dad, I'm locked in a room. A kid has a gun and nobody knows where he is." This friend told me, "This is never ok."
What do we do? I have cried, I have gotten mad, and I have prayed all day long. It is just too close to home. It is easy to think we are so small, how can we make a difference? But there are some things we can do, that start right in our homes, that can have a ripple effect throughout our communities.
Teach your kids how to lose. If you read the media reports (and I don't claim to know whether they are accurate), the fight that happened this morning was between two boys. When it ended, with one clearly having "won," the student started walking away. It was then that the shooter, the "loser," took out a handgun and shot him in the back. Teach your kids that losing builds character. Losing makes you try harder the next time. The most successful people in the world have fallen down more times than they care to admit. If everyone won all the time, we'd live in a pretty boring world. Kids must learn how to lose. Start by beating them in Candyland. Progress to playing sports for organizations that recognize kids for ability, but also for character and grit, where not everyone gets a trophy. Let them try out for team when you know they will not make it. Praise them for their effort, not for the outcome.
Encourage conflict resolution. I flipped on the radio and tuned into a station that was discussing the events of our small town this morning. A man called into the station and said that he thinks we need to be more aware of conflict between kids so we can stop it before it escalates. While I agree with him, I think this one has to start at home. When the kids bring their issues to school with them, and they are surrounded by their peers, who may pressure them into doing something rash, it is just too late. We must model the golden rule in our homes. Pray for our adversaries. Not let unkind words escape our lips. Not talk behind other peoples' backs. Be quick to apologize when we mess up, and offer forgiveness freely.
Teach your kids the permanence of death. What was 5 second exchange for these kids may land one of them in jail, but was a death sentence for the other. Nothing, NOTHING is worth this kind of fight. I shudder to think that the shooting games we have allowed our kids to play may be desensitizing them to the cause and effect of shooting a gun. That the fact that their avatar has so many lives, that they don't have to worry too much if he dies in this particular round, may be putting the idea in their heads that they are invincible. Some shows and some games are just not appropriate for kids because they're not ready to face the real truth of the fact that YES, life is black and white. You don't get a second chance when it comes to this precious, precious life you've been given. We have to teach our kids that while life is fun and for the most part enjoyable, it is also fragile and difficult. We must teach them to recognize the good times, and be thankful when life is going their way. But we must also impress upon them strategies for dealing with life's hardships. And if we don't know how, we must get help for our kids. Because life isn't getting any easier. They need to know that they are surrounded by adults who are for them. That there is a bottomless list of solutions for any problem that they face. But that ending their life or another's is NEVER the solution. And that it will be forever.
I walked into my house this morning after hearing the devastating news about the shooting at Butler, and I just felt hopeless. I wanted to pull my kids out of public school. I wanted to run away to a country where kids don't witness their friends being shot in the back, or have to hide in a closet, in fear. Then I remembered where my hope comes from. And I clung to that. I was straightening the boys' rooms and noticed Jonah's bible on his dresser. I flipped to one of my favorite verses, Romans 8:28 and read:
I am comforted by the fact that God is at work, even as I feel the world is spinning out of control. When things feel up in the air, and senseless acts are occurring every time I turn around, I know God is the same today as he was yesterday. He'll be the same tomorrow. And it is the hope I have in Him that allows me to put one foot in front of the other, and to keep my feet firmly planted, on this solid rock, because all other ground is just sinking sand.
So, I will finish up my chores, and meet my kids at the bus stop. I will keep on telling them the truth about their performances, good or bad. I will not let them win (all the time). I will hold my tongue when I want to lash out at people who have hurt me or my children. I will model respect for those who may not agree with me. I will monitor their tv shows and video games. But most of all, I will tell them they are safe. And they are loved. And we serve a HUGE God who is working for them. Always.