Overcoming our numbness to violence
I’m numb ... and that scares me.
This week I bought a mango at a grocery store. And I realized when I left that I paid 30 cents more than was marked. And I got frustrated — mostly with myself, a little at the store, more than was fair at the mango itself. I was 20 miles down the road when I finally snapped myself out of thinking about the mango and that thirty cents.
What finally snapped me out of those thoughts was thinking of the school shooting that happened in Kentucky this week. Why am I so worried about 30 cents and a mango, I thought to myself, when some of those kids didn’t get to go home that evening? And so many more will carry that violence with them the rest of their lives?
I had already done a little reading on that shooting, and knew that by Tuesday of this past week we had eleven school shootings in this country since January 1. But it didn’t hit me deeply until I was driving down the interstate in the dark glaring at my mango.
I’m numb to the violence. And the news is, too — even the shooting at the Kentucky school where two people were killed and 18 injured was difficult to find on many news websites the day it happened.
So I decided to un-numb myself, to dig deeper and care, even though I may never meet the people affected by these shootings.
Washington, California, Iowa, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Michigan — those are the states we’ve had school shootings in so far this year. A few have been suicides, of a student and an adult. A few have not injured anyone. A few have injured but not killed. And in a few people have been killed.
Few of those have been big news.
We need to care. We can’t become numb to the news like I did this week. We must care for these students whose lives are wracked by violence around the country, and for our own. They are our future, they are our hope ... and yet even more than that, they are people. They deserve a full life, not one ended by a momentary spat of anger or rash decision.
The reports from across the nation show school shootings happen at elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges — all of which we have in Glendive.
I pray that violence never visits us in the future. And while I do believe in the power of prayer, we can do things to prevent it off our knees as well.
We can join community organizations or a church, and support young leadership opportunities. We can cheer on a team or applaud at a concert. We can give to an organization that supports youth, or volunteer, or support them when they go on a trip for school or church or another organization, and ask them to write to you while they are away — and create real connection.
A sense of purpose, of meaning, goes a long way. Create that in a young person you know. Tell them they matter — today and in the future — and say you want to see them again. Give them something to look forward to — a kind word, a smile. Give a little bit of yourself. A little investment today goes even further tomorrow. Let’s live boldly into the future with our youth, not labeling them but coming alongside them with purpose.
For the inspiration for this article and a little refocusing, that mango earned its keep. But those kids in Kentucky — and across the nation — paid way too much.
Will Johnson is pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Glendive. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.