My heart goes out to each of you, especially today. You went to school or sent your child(ren) to school. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. So much grief, fear, and anxiety.
I’m sure there were many students at school today who were worried, afraid, or distraught, even if they didn’t exactly know why. I’m sure there were teachers who were also worried, afraid, and distraught. And I know that parents made sure to give that hug and say that “I love you” this morning.
There are many conversations taking place in the teachers’ lounge, the lunchroom, and at the dinner table about the Parkland shooting. How did we wake up in a society where “school shooting” is a thing?
After fear and grief, we often move to anger and frustration and despair. Here, I want to tell you a few things.
First of all, you are not alone. Many other people in society and in your church family are alarmed at the gun violence in our society and especially the involvement of young people. Sue Sherwood, Earl Waters, Patti Cooksey, Lucille Ruga and I went to the event at Allendale Methodist Church Tuesday night for a community conversation about gun violence in St. Petersburg. The gathering was very helpful and we went away committed to continue to be involved in addressing this problem. So, please know, you are not alone, and there are people at church that are working on doing something about this.
Secondly, know that you are already part of the solution. You are already doing something about this each and every day. You are teaching your children constructive ways to express anger and resentment and hostility and fear. Each and every day they are learning from you to use words, to take a run, to cry into a pillow, to talk with a trusted friend or a trusted adult about their feelings when they are upset. So, each and every day, in your various settings, you are addressing this problem and making a difference.
You are also making a difference by paying attention. You pay attention to your children and their friends. You pay attention to your students. You notice what is going on. You ask questions. You take an interest in others. You are involved. You express concerns. You show that you care. That matters. Many adults today are consumed with themselves and don’t notice what is going on around them. And when they do see something of concern they think it is not their problem or their business. I know that all of you are proactive in your caring and concern for others. That really matters!
You also make a difference by involving yourselves in schools and education. You advocate for better educational policies. I am not an educator but I am a parent and the Parkland school had 3,000 students. That is just too big. A high school should not be that big. Maybe it is an economy of scale from a financial standpoint but it is not an economy of scale from an educational standpoint. With 3,000 students it is too easy for students to fall through the cracks. It’s too easy for teachers and staff not to care. And we know that students these days have more and more needs. They need more attention and care not less. A school that large cannot meet the needs of the students. But in ways large and small, I know that you are working to make the school culture more supportive of the educational and character building needs of the students. That matters!
Let your heart break for Parkland and those families. Don’t hold back your tears. Love your kids and your students. Let them know it! Continue to be a positive influence in society. And know that your church family is with you every day all the way!
Please call on me if I can be helpful. I am willing to listen. I can give a hug. I am available to speak with your children as well. I want them to know that at church there are caring adults that they can trust.
I know you may be weary of all of this but stay engaged. Be courageous. Don’t let fear win.
Kim Wells, pastor
B.A. Wellesley College
M. Div. Union Theological Seminary of New York
Lakewood United Church of Christ
2601 54th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33712-4700