My son’s first birthday party is a memory that I will never forget. The unfortunate thing is that the reason that particular birthday sticks in my memory is not the cake, the presents or the joy of my wonderful little boy celebrating his first year on this planet. It is memorable because of what happened the next day. The next day a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people and wounded 17 others. The two events are forever coupled in my mind and at the time shook the very foundation of who I am as a person.
In the aftermath of the shootings, there were several practical things that needed to be done. I was teaching at school less than two hours from VA Tech. We instituted protocols for locking down the campus and dealt with the grief of students. There was a lingering problem that I had trouble reconciling. I had an extreme amount of guilt for bringing a child into a world that was capable of such evil. After celebrating the life of one of the people that I love the most, this act of evil made me question what I had done. The tragedy in Charleston is the latest reminder that the evil of man is still here. My heart goes out to the people who have lost someone in these senseless acts. The victims, their families and friends are the only ones that matter now. I know they are hurting much worse than I was over eight years ago but I have hope for them and us. For my own part, I was able to pull myself out of the pit of despair that I had created for myself. There were two words that brought me out: focus and hope.
By focusing on the evil of the world, I had made it my reality. It is an easy thing to do at times because the media shows us regularly what horrible people can do. This is not particularly their fault because we pay more attention to tragedy and they are giving us what “gets the ratings”. However I choose to focus on other things now. I see joy in my daughter’s eyes for big events like “field day”. My eyes turn to Mrs. Lobby, the kindergarten teacher, who pours her heart and soul into little minds every day. You’ll never see those things on the “scumbag and tragedy” report in the evening but they still exist and that is the world that I live in.
My other word is hope. I have hope and confidence that the good in people will spread and win. It is my influence on my children and the other people that I have contact with that I can affect the future. I am a small drop in a large ocean but I hope that my small ripple combine with those of others can create a tidal wave of good that reaches around the world. We must find the good in each other and expose that to the rest of the world.
As my final thought, I’d like for you to imagine two pitchers and a large bucket. In one pitcher is red colored water and in the other there is blue. If you only pour red into the bucket, the bucket water will be all red. If you pour equal of both, you get purple. The water has no choice what color it is. However we have a choice what we put out into the world. If you want the world to be greedy, selfish, hateful and driven by negative thoughts and emotion, then put those out there. Recognize that you have a choice. I don’t have rose colored glasses on and I’m not going to break into a verse of “kumbaya”. The only thing that I want you to realize is that you have a choice. The world is not inherently evil nor is it inherently good. People have choices.
Be good to one another.