There was a school shooting near my home today. Not many details have been released, but there was a school shooting near my home today. Parents – friends – received automated voice messages from the school district informing them that their children were on lockdown. News footage covered the school like it’s covered so many – too many – before. There are cliches around this now; how did that happen?
A friend of mine texted me a link to a news article while I was plunked down at the YMCA getting some work done, my babies safely playing mere feet away from me in the child watch, oblivious to the absolute nightmare playing out for other mothers, their babies. I opened it and it slowly dawned on me that this was here, this was just down the rural highway from my safe little neighborhood in an even safer farming community – the one people try to move to for the school district because it’s so small, so well-performing, so safe. My heart burned for the families, for the parents getting phone calls from their terrified children, for those precious, young, impressionable teenagers who saw some of the worst humans can do to each other today when they thought they were just going to sweat out a Calculus exam.
There was a shooting near my home today and it is no more or less tragic, no more or less disgusting, no more or less indicting than every other atrocity that happens every day in every other place. But this one happened here.
We send our babies into the world, you guys; the world both here and so far from us. We send them into this dangerous, scary, wild place we don’t fully understand and we trust that the things we taught them will get them to some rocking chair on a porch when they’re 120 years old, happy, loved, fulfilled.
But there was a school shooting today and there will be another and there have been far too many and it’s stuff like this that reminds us that even our darling babies are not guaranteed a rocking chair. No amount of “be kind” will keep them from encountering evil. No matter how much we tell them to look for the helpers, to trust in the Good, to do right and bring grace, there will always be a real and present risk that the world around them will give no shits. There is always the risk that they will find themselves in the cold and desperate dark.
And worse, there is the risk that the very thing we teach them to do – be brave in love, be bold in virtue, be the light themselves – may attract evil to them, may make them more vulnerable to harm than if we’d told them to keep their heads down and disengage from this chaotic place.
I believe in teaching my kids to be helpers, be courageous, be Love. But sometimes I’m not sure I can take what that means.
I’m not sure I could get a phone call like the ones these parents got today and not hope to God my kid is a liar who never actually goes to school, but spends every weekday far, far, far away from that building smoking pot or looking at smut or stealing gum. I’m not sure I could take it if my child was so near such agonizing danger, knowing I had taught her to do hard things.
My daughter is named after the victim of a school shooting. Rachel Joy Scott was taught to be Love, to stand in courage for what was important to her, to be a witness to the faith she held so dear. She lost her life to that. There are many stories of people giving their lives during these horrific shootings for the sake of their students or classmates. All three of my sons are named for the same kind of courage, the same commitment to living awake and taking responsibility for the world around them.
I want that for my kids…. most days.
But on the day when there was a school shooting near my home, I just want to hold them close. I just want them to stay too little to be out in the world anyway. I just want them to be near me so I can hold them and look at them and know that right now they are safe, that nothing can get to them without going through me, that they can laugh easy because they don’t have to know yet how terrible this place can be.
I can barely begin to imagine how the people directly involved are breathing right now. For me, for my family, it is a sobering reminder that this thing we are striving to be present for – life in all it’s bent up glory – is not tame. We are crossing treacherous land and we are intentionally telling the tiny humans we cherish more than anything else to do the same.
Most days I’m good with that. Because if I’m honest, most days I imagine love asking them to speak up for the vulnerable or be generous with their money or let someone else have the last piece of pie. But there was a school shooting near my home today and it reminds me that sometimes love makes really big asks and I’m not always sure I’m okay with my children