ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
Monday, March 5-Santee, Calif. Charles Andrew Williams, a 15-year-old freshman, opens fire with a .22 caliber handgun at Santana High School, killing two and wounding 13.
I’ve been home this week with little to do as my body tries to right itself from whatever it’s trying to right itself from. I’ve caught up on some reading and I’ve chatted on the phone and I’ve watched some old movies.
The television has become my companion, but some of what it brings into my home makes me shudder.
Another school shooting, more young lives tragically taken, families in grief, another teenaged murderer that tears at my heart.
What is happening to our children? What is happening to our country when violence by such young people becomes commonplace?
Tuesday, March 6. Following the shootings at Santana High, copycat threats pour in from around the nation. Police and school authorities investigate. Several students are suspended. An 8-year-old in Philadelphia threatens to turn his elementary school into a “bloodbath.”
It’s terrifying that an 8-year-old would have such anger. But it’s happening, and not just in some far-away big city. There are children right here in Marion County dealing with issues of anger and abuse. I know, I’ve worked with some of them.
Our school authorities, counselors and staffs do a wonderful job of trying to help these troubled kids while making sure their anger doesn’t overflow onto their fellow students. It’s a hard, seemingly endless challenge.
But never think for a minute that an “incident” like the ones we hear on the news can’t happen to us. The unthinkable happens every day-just ask a woman who has had a miscarriage, a parent who has lost a child or a patient battling cancer.
Wednesday, March 7-Williamsport, Pa. Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Bush, a victim of reported “vicious taunting,” enters the cafeteria at her school and shoots a classmate. She then threatens to commit suicide.
When I hear these stories, I search my soul. How am I raising my kids? Am I teaching them to be kind to others? Am I teaching them that words are powerful; that they can wound-even kill-another person’s spirit?
Am I giving my kids the love and support that they need to be able to stand strong against a bully’s provocation? Would my son or daughter be able to intervene for someone else?
And what about guns? I abhor guns. But I would never think a police officer in modern American society could step into the streets unarmed.
I’m afraid of guns, but my husband and son enjoy skeet shooting and hunting quail and pheasant each fall.
We have taught our children that guns are not toys. They are real, powerful weapons that should be treated with the utmost responsibility.
Handguns are not a part of our lifestyle, but my husband has spent hours training our kids in gun safety.
“Never point a gun at a person- even if you think it’s a toy. Even if you know it’s a toy.”
Guns are serious business, not to be taken lightly.
Will they remember those lessons, or are there other influences telling them that guns are glamorous or funny?
Thursday, March 8. Former Indiana University coach Bobby Knight is in the news with litigation against the university who fired him last September. He claims he was let go unfairly-that he didn’t cross the line in “roughing up his players” or in breaking the school’s “no tolerance rule” against abusive behavior.
By the world’s standard, Bobby Knight is a winner. His successful coaching career at Indiana University is legendary. But then, so is his temper. After years of turning a blind eye to the ill treatment of Knight’s players, the university finally said enough was enough.
As an adult, I’m called on to be a role model. As a Christian woman, I’m called on to be an example of my faith. But am I blinded to the things in my own life that might support the ongoing violence in this world?
I can assure you that I’m not out plotting to murder anyone. But what about the language I use and the language I accept from others?
“I’d kill for a taco”…”If you kids don’t stop, I’m going to knock you senseless”…”If you ever do such-and-such again, you’re going to die!”
I’ve heard it; you’ve heard it. I’ve done it, you’ve done it. But is it right?
As parents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders and pastors, maybe we need to be especially sensitive to the words that come out of our mouths.
Friday, March 9-Broward County, Fla. Lionel Tate, age 14, is sentenced to life in a Florida prison for killing a 6-year-old girl. The girl was killed while Tate, then only 12, was wrestling with her. He was imitating the pro wrestlers he had seen on television.
Last summer, we took several kids to Wichita to play laser tag. Before we went, my husband and I had a long talk about whether playing this version of tag was buying into violence or whether it was just an updated rendition of an age-old game.
My husband theorized that since no projectiles actually came out of the “laser gun” that it was suitable for the kids to play. I’m still wondering about that.
I don’t want to be paranoid about violence. My children have seen movies (mostly historical accounts) where weapons have been involved. I myself enjoy a good “whodunit.” But news filled with kids who have killed because they were acting on impulse or because they were imitating something seen in the media-violence portrayed as entertainment-gives me pause.
Maybe that’s what we all should do: think…and pray. Pray for our kids.
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I’ll leave you with this prayer from St. Francis. It’s better than a recipe.
Lord; make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow charity;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life. Amen.