It seems like the last thing the world needs right now is more noise and more opinion on what we need to do in light of the tragedies of the recent school shootings. We could debate about gun control or better mental health care all day, but I don’t want to do that. All I want to do is to know what tangible things I can do in my own little circle that can help. Maybe you’re looking for ways to help too. Let’s talk this through together, shall we?
First, let’s identify our circles… I have a husband, a 20 year old college student, and a 12 year old 7th grader. My son is studying criminal justice and eventually wants to be a State Trooper and maybe a detective. My daughter is in the trenches of middle school and is active in dance and theatre so she has many friends from all areas of our county from different backgrounds. I lead a 7th grade girls small group at our church. I work for a school district and have many wonderful friends who work in the schools as teachers, counselors, instructional assistants, and secretaries. Through my children, I’ve worked with many middle school, high school, and college age kids attending their performances and volunteering at marching band competitions and helping backstage at dance recitals and plays. My sister is a 6th grade English teacher. I have nieces and nephews and cousins and distant cousins. Take a hard look at the people you see and interact with on a regular basis. How many of them are either at an impressionable age or lead people who are in an impressionable age? Chances are, there are several of them. This gives us a real opportunity to do something. We have to do something.
So, what can we do?
We need to get to know our children.
That may sound like the most over obvious statement ever, but it’s the truth. Do you know what’s going on in the lives of your children? Do you follow them on social media? Do you know what social media platforms they are even on? Find out ALL of them. Do you know who is texting your kids and what their conversations are about? Find out. Right now. Do you know that every social media platform has a private messaging area? Do you know so many of these sites are used as a tool to make belittle, bully, and isolate children? Is your child a victim of social media bullying? Are they an instigator? Do you KNOW??? 100%. No doubt… or do you assume? Do you know who their friends are and what’s going on in their lives? Do you ever do random phone checks? Like at night when they are sleeping? Do you hang out and talk in detail about what’s happening in their life? Do you even act like you’re interested? Do you find yourself making excuses for them like “she’s just a moody teen” or “we never see him… he’s either in his room or out of the house.” Or are you gone so much you don’t even know where they are or what they are doing half the time? This is not okay. We have got to find out what’s up. Spend time with them. Learn to like what they are in to. WE HAVE TO.
We need to love on kids that are hard to love.
Principals, Teachers, Instructional Assistants, Secretaries, Volunteers, Sunday School Teachers, Parents, ANYONE WORKING WITH OR ASSOCIATING WITH KIDS AGES 0-21… We have to learn to LOVE the “unlovables”. The ones that make you want to pull your hair out. The ones with greasy hair and are neglected. The outcasts. The shy ones. The ones who bully other kids. The instigators. The ADHD kids. The mean girls. The ones who bring drugs to school. The kid you don’t want to deal with and are glad when they are out of your presence… The kids you don’t want your kids to be friends with. THAT ONE. Love him/her. Pray how to love him/her. Show them that if no one in their life gives a crap about them, that you do. That you believe they have a hope and a future and their destiny is not already written out. Love the “Regina George”–the one who is the instigator of so much girl drama and lives to tear other kids down. Love her. Love the star athletes who make life miserable for so many of their classmates. Show him/her that real leadership begins with kindness and serving others. Show him/her that courage is doing the right thing when no one is watching. The kid who seems withdrawn and uninterested in anything. Talk to them. Don’t be another adult in their life who act annoyed/frustrated/or disappointed in them. Find something to like about them and jump on it. POUR LOVE INTO THEM. We have to! In most cases, the kids who perform these violent acts they have been forgotten, neglected, bullied, abused, or otherwise fell through the cracks. We’ve got to seek them out and love them. And we have to love the ones who are doing the bullying and the isolating and help them stop this!
We need to lead by example.
It starts at home. What does your daily life look like? How much of it do you spend on your phone? How much of it do you spend pouring love and encouragement to others? Do you find yourself tearing other people down more than you are working to build them up? Do your kids hear you talking bad about others? Take a hard look at your day-to-day and remember–your children are watching. They are likely turning into little versions of you. Are you happy with that or do you want better for them? Change you before you try to change them. Lead by example.
We need to spread love like wildfire.
Everywhere and to everyone. Be kind. It’s free and easy. Just do it. Look for ways to love people. Get your kids involved. Stop and help people stuck on the side of the road. Take soup to people you know are sick. Bake cookies. Weep with those who are weeping. Think about others 150% more than you think about yourself. Be generous. Stop commenting your opinions on social media and show some love and encouragement instead. Stop making fun of accomplishments of others and cheerlead them on. Stop being jealous of other’s success and applaud their hard work. Volunteer. Pray to have eyes that see people the way God sees them. He created each and every one of us. He created and loved your perfect baby just as He created and loved the violence instigators of this world. Pray that you can love even them.
We need to pray.
Pray with and pray for our kids. Every. Single. Day. Give them all over to God. Pray for how He can use you to lead them and love them. All of them. Even the ones who aren’t your kids. Even the ones you don’t like. Pray for all of them and pray for them to feel loved. Pray for your friends and colleagues who are influencing kids every day. Pray for them to have patience. Pray for their strength. Pray for them to be kind and vigilant and to find renewed joy in their jobs each day. Lift them up. Pray for our country and our world and the hurting people who find themselves in a state where they want to do unspeakable acts of violence on other people. Please, pray for them. Pray for someone to notice them and seek them out. Pray for them to feel loved and filled with hope and joy. Pray for the darkness that is closing in on them… that it would flee in the name of Jesus. Pray. Please. Get on your knees and pray right now.
Our kids are suffering… I say our kids because all of these kids are our responsibility… the ones who are the victims AND the ones who are doing the shooting. And all the other kids who are living in terror every single day they go to school or go through a lock-down drill. My son knew what the heaviest and sharpest items were in each of his high school classrooms in case he ever had to defend his classmates during an attack. I can’t believe we live in a world where he felt like he had to learn that! I prayed with my daughter this morning and listened to her fear as she talked about kids who aren’t taking the lock down drills seriously. A 12 year old is worried about her classmates not taking a drill seriously because she doesn’t want them or herself to die. What kind of world have we created?