We gathered our after school program kids together this past Wednesday for a lesson/discussion about fear. We watched a short animated video about what people were afraid of. Snakes, spiders, and bugs were part of the list. Parents getting a divorce was given as a fear as well as other topics. When we asked our kids (1st – 5th graders) about their fears, many echoed the fears they had seen on the video.
One of our students, a fourth grader, said “school shootings”.
While I expected that to be mentioned when I asked the question, it still was difficult to hear. These kids have heard those words too many times in their short lives.
This week, we have been hearing voices of teenagers who survived the recent mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. While much of our country responded with hurting hearts, sympathy, and anger that this event is one in a line of many in our recent history, there were way too many people, politicians and special interest groups who sought to silence and discredit their voices.
Conspiracy theorists claim that these voices are “paid actors”. Some politicians assume that this must be a plot by the other side to score political points, because our youth aren’t capable of creating a nationwide movement for change.
They are wrong. I have worked with youth in churches for over thirty years. I know that when they get passionate about things, things can change. But significant change will require us to stand up and speak out with them. It will require us to put down all of the dysfunction we have as a society toward our kids and really listen. They are speaking truth to our power.
Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ – Matthew 19:14 .
I know the gun issue is difficult. There is much passion on both sides. The frustrating thing is that those passions have gotten us nowhere.
We have a cycle:` Children, youth, and teachers are slaughtered in the halls, classrooms, and schoolyards. One side says “No More!” One side says “Not Us!”, and then a week later the news cycle shifts to another distraction that thwarts any real progress.
I hope and pray that this time our kids can keep us from being distracted. Our generations have failed them miserably. We owe it to all of our kids, teachers, and others who have died to do something different. We have to stop trying to silence those who have survived because special interests and our political affiliations tell us to.
I also hope that that little fourth grader will one day not be afraid of showing up at school.
With anger and frustration,