Any time there is a mass shooting tragedy, people question and debate why such terrible things happen and what can be changed. As an educator, my heart especially aches for those whose lives were cut short with the recent mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, because schools are generally a safe spot for personalities to develop and people to learn how to be productive citizens. Any time something like this happens, another layer of innocence is chipped away. As a Christian woman, my heart is comforted that this life (and death) is not the end for the innocent and those who embrace Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
I have seen and heard the usual conversations about gun control and mental health, and expect those will continue across the nation and around the world. Yet, I don't believe the "why did this happen" or the solution has much to do with either of those topics. I actually think the reason this abhorrent crime occurred, the reason for the heroic actions of the Sandy Hook administration and faculty when faced with this crisis, and the reason things have the potential to be changed is one word: RELATIONSHIP.
The killer seemingly lacked a healthy relationship with God, his family, his community. I do pray for his family who must suffer with the aftermath of his actions through no fault of their own. I pray that God will protect them from hatred (guilty by name association) and draw them unto Himself in relationship.
The principal, psychologist and teachers had varying levels of experience in public schools. They probably had different opinions about politics, gun control, school reform, teacher accountability, standardized testing, etc. What they had in common was relationship and this connection prompted them to respond with calm and courage in the face of danger. They had relationships with each other as professional colleagues. They had relationships with the students whose smiles, hugs, and tangible signs of learning they loved to see. They had relationships with family and friends and community members in their sphere of influence. Despite their fear, they protected those relationships. Like Cassie Bernall at Columbine, they took a stand to honor their relationships. (I've had the privilege to meet and speak with Cassie's grandparents about the legacy of her life, short though it was.) I guarantee you none of those adults was getting paid what they deserved for the work they were doing every day at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Like most educators, they were not in classrooms and administration positions for the income; they were in it for the outcome.
The relationships formed with co-workers and students are special. They are lasting. They are inspiring. And in times like this, they are motivating. They motivate to protect despite self-sacrifice. They motivate survivors to honor the memories of those lost. They motivate us to treasure those relationships while they are intact. I have found myself wondering, "if I were in Dawn's shoes as principal, would I do what she did?" I had similar questioning reflection after the Columbine tragedy, wondering, "if I were Cassie, would I have said YES knowing that an affirmative response to believing in Jesus Christ would mean an automatic departure from this world and arrival into the heavenly hereafter?" Like then, I believe I would. My faith gives me the assurance of my future destination. Therefore, I can honor that relationship and trust God to use me in that moment of crisis.
This leads me to my final thought about relationship. This relationship with Christ is the ultimate relationship. That amazing grace and love have the power to heal, comfort, protect, strengthen, serve, and answer God's call for our lives until He calls us home. If more of His people would truly believe and live the message of the Gospel and be in relationship with Him, there would be peace. This peace may not be world peace until the second coming of Christ, but it would be peace for those who believe, no matter the dark times and storms of life that come their/our way. People can say what they want about gun control and mental health screenings. Those things require relationships too. You can have healthy relationships with guns or abusive one. You can have counseling and trust established with mental health professionals or you can ignore outward signs and deceive yourself and others in that relationship context.
I am grateful for my relationship with Jesus. I am grateful for my relationship with educators who fulfill their purpose in society despite many pressures and attacks (not all of them violent, mind you). I am grateful for the relationships created in Room 102 of CHS and various locations in the Hull Education Center when students are entrusted to my care. I have often said students don't care what you know until they know how much you care. Well, I care. Others like me care. Jesus cares. Let's pray for more relationships of caring and less relationships about scaring.
John 15:13: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."
As always, my soul thinks better in song. This one by Michael W. Smith (link below) gives me chills. This is YOUR time - build better relationships, including the best relationship you can form just by saying YES to your heavenly Father.
My heart grieves for the loss of precious lives, no matter the cause. Hug your loved ones a little more often, a little longer, and embrace the relationships while you have time.
Love and prayers,