Anger. Disbelief. Grief. Finger pointing. All responses to the February 14 shooting rampage at a Florida high school. Some reports say it’s the 18th incident of gunfire at a school campus since the beginning of 2018. Regardless of the numbers, this week’s column is meant to convict our hearts, including mine.
At this writing, 17 were killed in the rampage and another 13 were injured. Questions abound. Responses reported in and by the media, both traditional and socially, call for more gun control, more assistance for the mentally disturbed and higher levels of school security.
For 30 years, I was a public educator. Beginning my career in 1975, I was naïve enough to believe I could make a difference in all of my students’ lives. Years later, I had a reality check. I couldn’t save everyone; I couldn’t meet every need. Still, I knew I should and could do what I could.
A 19-year-old has confessed to the most recent shooting rampage. News reports paint a picture of a disturbed young man. One of his former teachers said he was a quiet student, a loner. The students familiar with Nikolas Cruz were not surprised by his actions. His attorney has called him a “broken human being.”
Christian author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot said, “We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.”
In an article by Sam Harris, written after the Newtown, Conn., shootings, he says, “There’s a way to stop mass shootings, and you won’t like it. That’s right. You’re not going to like it because it’s going to require you to do something personally, as opposed to shouting for the government, or anyone to ‘do something.’”
Harris’ solution? “Notice those around you who seem isolated and engage them.”
He adds, “If every one of us did this we’d have a culture that was deeply committed to ensuring no one was left lonely. And make no mistake, as I’ve written before, loneliness is what causes these shooters to lash out. People with solid connections to other people don’t indiscriminately fire guns at strangers.”
But that requires effort on our part. Notice the strange kid sitting by himself at lunch. Invite him to eat with you. What about the awkward guy at work who doesn’t fit in? Ask him about his weekend.
As parents, we also have a responsibility to teach our children to do the same, to make sure no one feels isolated. As Harris says, “That’s the breeding ground. That’s where the seeds are planted.”
We can all plant seeds—seeds of kindness. We may take for granted our own circle of connections—family, healthy friendships—but we must not assume everyone has that connection.
Don’t be part of the blame game. Be a part of the solution.