It wasn’t until the day after Valentine’s Day that I had a chance to sit down and look through my kids’ school Valentine’s cards. They are in kindergarten and second grade. The bags and boxes that l crafted were filled with adorable little cards from all of their class friends – because at that age (especially kindergarten) they really all ARE friends.
Since this was also the day after the Florida school massacre (“shooting” isn’t strong enough to describe these events) my mind kept going to dark places as I looked through these happy notes.
Do the families of yesterday’s victims somewhere have old sweet little valentine cards that the killer gave to their kid in Kindergarten? In second grade? What broke—or was it always broken? How did a child that no doubt at one time in his life was excited to give his friends Valentines grow sick enough to then kill those same classmates years later? How can we predict that? How can we stop it?
And finally — how can we as a society move past the all-or-nothing, black and white painting of critical issues like guns and mental health to find a starting point to make things better?
I have strong opinions and ideas about this, as I’m sure most of you do. I won’t share them here because this isn’t the format for a debate that could/would delve into politics and religion. That’s not what Pittsburgh Moms Blog is about.
On the other hand, I couldn’t think of any better place to talk about this because I know, regardless of how any of us votes or prays, we all have a deep common connection–we love our kids and each of us feel the pain of these tragedies deeply. It saddens and sickens us. It makes us have conversations that we shouldn’t have to have with our young kids–six and eight year olds–who have gotten used to regular drills in which they practice hiding in closets in their classrooms and practice being quiet so they don’t get killed.
So I’m appealing to those common heartstrings that we all share. We need to fix this. We need real ideas, real solutions, and we need to insist that progress go forward and our kids’ safety doesn’t just become someone’s campaign rhetoric. We all need to talk and work together because no one should care more about this issue than us.
For me, my first step is my own school district. I’ve gotten their reassuring mass-emails assuring me that “student safety is top priority” but I’m not really clear on the controls they have in place. I do know that we don’t have metal detectors, and frankly, we are sadly in the day and age when that should be standard. Will my letter to the district leaders do anything? My attendance at school board meetings? Maybe, maybe not. Because security at schools is just one part of the issue (and honestly, probably the part of the issue that has actually had the most action taken).
But if I start to wonder about the depth of my impact, or allow myself to get overwhelmed by all facets of this epidemic, it will be too easy to shut down and declare that I can’t make a difference. But if we—this amazing group people who would do anything for the kids that we love–tackle this together, coming at it from all sides with lots of small steps in the form of letters, meeting attendance, votes, and conversations with our kids and neighbors, maybe we can make one school a bit safer. And that does matter.