"Three years of middle school were my years of torture. I
even considered suicide because of all the comments that came
my way. Why? Because I had nothing to live for."
simple spoken word. A simple action can brighten a world. Build
it from the simple. Never jump right in and invade their world.
Never works. The distance will become amazingly far so fast you
won’t even believe it. You gotta go slowly. A hello in the hallway."
leave anyone behind; don’t let them fall into the cracks. You
have the power to prevent another Columbine. Be a friend to someone.
Be a listener to someone. Be a hugger to someone. Be something
to someone so they know they are accepted."
It all began two years ago on an April afternoon. What began as a news
event that brought life to a halt has become one of the most moving,
shocking and life changing events to come about. It was April 20th,
1999 when I sat in the Newsroom at Littleton High School, going about
my business and talking with a fellow classmate, when the switch was
“Oh my God!” Alyssa Rennecker, my Editor in Chief screamed as she was
talking on the phone with her mother. No sooner had we asked then she
revealed. Shooting at Columbine High School. We wheeled in the television
and began to watch as the events in question unfolded on screen, watching
in horror as the details began to emerge. Shock registered, sadness
was next and disbelief. We had been the witnesses to the biggest school
shooting. 13 dead, two outcasts taking their lives.
Now, two years later I stand in front of the thirteen crosses at the
Chapel Hill Mortuary, considering the past and the future. I am drawn
to this place as often as I can come, and that seems to be each day.
My greatest fears, my greatest hope, all meet here in a tumble of thoughts.
I look at each cross, thinking of each of them and what they might have
been like, who they were and what they stood for. I often imagine what
it would be like to meet them, to talk to them. I shake my head, throwing
it out the window. The past is the past and now I must fight for the
future. I fear the future too much to let it go undefended.
I fear the future for one reason. The fear that no one has learned anything
from the infamous day in April. I fear that schools will not change
because the new kids who come in will have forgotten the impact of it.
They won’t see their actions affecting people until its too late. I
fear for my brother who is going to Littleton High School this year
as a freshman. I fear for all of my friends I still have there. I fear
the future and what it holds.
Why do I fear? Because I worry that people have forgotten April 20,
1999. They’ve been sickened of reading about all the bad horrible things
in the media and have tired of the reports coming out of the Columbine
community about Sheriff John Stone and of the red tape that has choked
any chance of healing.
What do we do with this? All of this is great; it’s merely a statement
of facts that have presented themselves to us. Well, there is something
you can do. But it requires you to step outside your box and your ever-precious
bubble. I know that this is hard, but as a famous man once said, we
don’t do it because it’s easy. That’s the point.
All over the nation, school will be starting up soon or already has
started. In each of those schools is that possibility of another Columbine.
In each of those schools is the chance that one will snap and lose it.
And cold water will once more be thrown on us, but by this time we have
become immune to its shock. We’ve grown used to seeing incidences at
schools, to the fact that kids will probably pick up a gun and start
firing; he or she having been pushed to the edge. What has happened
to America? Do we care anymore? I’ll give you one reason to care. My
fourth graders that I teach every Sunday. I look at them and think how
amazingly wonderful they are and how much I miss them during the week.
It pains my heart to think that they could very well be the next. It
makes me want to stand up and scream.
I want to scream to each and every high school student around the nation.
I want to grab them by their shirt and pull them close and force them
to see reality and what it is. And that’s exactly what I am going to
Listen up high school students. This one’s for you. Every day since
11:21 became well known I have contemplated and thought over and over
in my head. Just recently, it has become clear to me. We need love.
We need it in the hallways, we need in the cafeteria, we need it in
the gym and we need it in classrooms. You need it. Badly.
Hear me out. There is a kid (or several kids) in your school who are
the outsiders, the kids no one talks to, or rarely for that matter.
They are the ones people avoid, look at odd and sometimes even make
fun of. There are those who are do not know friendship, which do not
know kindness, who do not know happiness. My heart aches when I see
it, for I was once one of them. I was once the outsider, the geek, and
the kid who nearly everyone picked on because he was different. Three
years of middle school were my years of torture. I even considered suicide
because of all the comments that came my way. Why? Because I had nothing
to live for. My friends at the time were un-supportive and picked on
me too. I was against a wall and I couldn’t get out.
Except for one thing. My youth group that I fatefully attended each
week. They wanted to see me, the actually cared that I was there! That
saved me. Today, I owe that church everything I have.
However, for others, they may not have that support system. They may
not have another group of friends outside of school. It’s a terrible
feeling to feel alone. Most get used to it and that frightens me. That
it would become so horrible, that you would just take the abuse and
shrug at each verbal punch. It saddens me and breaks my heart. Everyone
needs to feel loved, accepted and wanted. For those who don’t, it’s
a terrible existence.
How do we fix it? How do we repair this situation that is becoming more
and more prevalent in our world? Reach out. I do not advocate forced
togetherness, because this makes it even worse. “You gotta get to know
this kid and if you don’t….” or a massive school gathering. Some things
have to be undertaken on your own and of your own will. If forced against
their will, people become cynical and not very sincere. There goes the
love out the window.
Say hello. A simple hello. That’s it. A, “How are you?”. Or perhaps
you sit across from them in the library or sit near them at lunch. A
simple spoken word. A simple action can brighten a world. Build it from
the simple. Never jump right in and invade their world. Never works.
The distance will become amazingly far so fast you won’t even believe
it. You gotta go slowly. A hello in the hallway.
Simple? No. Even I can recognize this. I understand. But you have to.
You can no longer go on as you have. You can no longer ignore those
around you. The world changed two years ago and guess what? You’re right
in the middle. We are facing a world that is changing every moment.
Flare-ups in the UK, in the Middle East and the constant threat of terrorism
are all very real.
The threat of a school incident should be as well. You must dissolve
the walls. Be it between the “Jocks”, the “Preps” or the “Nerds”. Perhaps
you reach out to someone on the other side of the tracks. Find out how
to see the world from their eyes. Reach out, please. I don’t want to
lose anymore. I want to win and never have to face the news of another
shooting. I want to see those walls drop. I want to see people crossing
their lines to simply say hello. To see how they’re doing. To show them
that someone accepts them for whom they are and don’t care what they
look like. They need to feel wanted.
It’s a challenge. Can you do it? Can you forget what your friends think
of you and what they might say and go out and say hello? Can you throw
away the fear of recrimination for showing someone they are loved? Can
you do it?
The rewards are little until they thank you. Believe me, I have reached
out to many in my high school career. When I graduated, I received several
notes in my yearbook thanking me for showing them the life that can
be, the life of love and acceptance. Don’t leave anyone behind; don’t
let them fall into the cracks. You have the power to prevent another
Columbine. Be a friend to someone. Be a listener to someone. Be a hugger
to someone. Be something to someone so they know they are accepted.
Do it because you can. You can change this world. One person at a time.
I know because I’ve done it. Ask me about it sometime. Love and Blessings
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