A Call to Action :: A Tale of School Shootings

I came across a shocking statistic the other day.  Did you know that there have been 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre in late 2012?  This number equates to at least one school shooting each week.  You may already know this, of course, since the findings went viral on Facebook, Twitter and all the social media-ites even to the point of raising a large amount of criticism.

This article constructively sums up how the advocacy group identified the shocking number – including further categorizing many of the school shootings the group contained in its original analysis.  That’s right, seemingly, in an attempt to invalidate the original 74 number, the authors of the article (linked above) actually broke down the so-called “school shootings” into more explanatory groupings like incidents in which the shooter intended to commit mass murder (ex. Sandy Hook, Columbine), incidents related to criminal activity (such as drug dealings and robbery) or personal altercations, and incidents unconnected to the school community and/or occurred after school hours.  Cause hey – if someone is shooting and it’s after 4:05pm then it’s okay?!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these authors condone acts of violence, by any means.  But something about the way our society is handling this situation, by in some ways excusing the makings of this school shooting statistic or denouncing the validity of its shock factor, sort of makes my blood boil.

I think that one of my greatest strengths (and most annoying weaknesses) is my dedication to self-reflection.  I’m constantly self-criticizing, wondering if I handled a situation correctly or picked out the right shirt for the day, etc.  I’m also constantly looking towards the future.  Like will I probably have kids within the next 6-10 years?  Of which, the answer is most likely yes. This figure depends on when the man of my dreams waltzes into my life and agrees to settle down.  NBD.

Anyways, now, here is where I get to the problem.  And to all the current parents out there, I don’t know how you’ve made it this far with your dignity and composure still in tact.  But, my problem is with raising children in a world where I have to be legitimately fearful of an attack at their place of education – where each morning, after I hug my little one at the front door, it is perfectly normal for me to be scared if he/she will walk back through it later that afternoon.

I don’t understand why we are in the situation that we are in now.  I don’t understand what goes through the mind of someone who wants to commit mass murder or any acts of violence on a school campus.  Is it for the fame and recognition?  Is it because they don’t feel understood?  Do they think it’s cool in their minds?  I don’t know if there are answers to these questions, but I do know that I have learned nothing from the 74-ish school shootings.  I don’t remember any of the shooters names, nor do I want to know them.  If it’s because he/she(?) felt misunderstood or wanted to be cool, the only thing that I can say is that there are far other, better ways to get your voice heard in this world and far easier ways to be ‘cool.’  There are so many groups and people who can help you find and express your coolness.  Trust me.

What I also know is that there is an answer to this problem.  I don’t think it’s a simple one to find nor do I think that we know exactly what it is yet.  But, we have some pieces to work with – like stricter gun laws, improved mental health care, art therapy, etc.  Hey – maybe we can all perform and promote a few extra acts of kindness?

Ideally, this post is about a call to action.  It’s about deciding – whether you think the answer is any or none of the pieces I mentioned above – that you will not accept existing in a world where our children are at risk of living another day purely because they stepped foot inside a classroom.  It’s about deciding that we might not have all the solutions yet, but that ignoring the shock factor of a once-a-week-school-shooting statistic is not one of them.  It’s about deciding that change begins and ends with you, and that waiting for the 75th incident – whether its a mass shooting or a misunderstanding on the playground – is about one statistic too late.

*What do you think?  What should we do to prevent school violence in America?

We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one. -Steven Pinker

 

Review: The Last Lecture

 

Eek!  I am a little late writing this post.  Woopsies.  I finished The Last Lecture about a month ago.  The book is about the last lecture, and related stories, of a Carnegie Mellon professor [Randy Paunch] who is facing just 4-6 months to live after discovering he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although a lot of the content is tear-inducing, I found many passages that left me both laughing and smiling.

Overall, this book is about life.  That might sound weird – a book ultimately about death is really about life?  But, that is how Randy designed it.  He wanted this book, and his last lecture, to be a standing testament to his children about how to pursue your childhood dreams.

Randy conveys this message by explaining how he “achieved” each of his childhood dreams.  Some of these are silly and a bit ‘stretched,’ like the time he completed his young dream of being an astronaut by talking his way into attending a school trip to NASA’s zero-gravity plane.  And, some of his dreams, are so very real, like the virtual design application he helped build at Carnegie Mellon, which still inspires and teaches students today.  From Randy, “Through Alice [the virtual design application], millions of kids are going to have incredible fun while learning something hard.  They’ll develop skills that could help them achieve their dreams.  If I have to die, I am comforted by having Alice as a professional legacy.”

I am a firm believer in discovering and pursuing your passion, and I feel like The Last Lecture is a sort of Bible to doing just that.  Randy pushes the boundaries of typical social norms, by challenging his readers to think outside the lines, through his own life events.  Take, for example, the time he convinced his mother to allow him to write inspirational sayings/drawings on the walls in his room.  Or, the time he proved a point to his neice and nephew by dumping an entire bottle of soda on the back seat of his brand new car.  The point is that yeah, life is going to throw you some curve balls, but it’s how you react to the twists and turns that determines your integrity, values and overall fate as a person.

There are a lot of great quotes from Randy throughout the book.  My favorites include:

“Engineering isn’t about perfect solutions; it’s about doing the best you can with limited resources.  Both the lecture and this book are my attempts to do exactly that.”

[I am all about ‘doing good’ for humanity, especially through Random Acts of Kindness!, but I also found great truth in this message.] “When you use money to fight poverty, it can be of great value, but too often, you’re working at the margins.  When you’re putting people on the moon, you’re inspiring all of us to achieve the maximum of human potential, which is how our greatest problems will eventually be solved.”

“Complaining does not work as a strategy.  We all have finite time and energy.  Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals.  And it won’t make us happier.”

“But in the end, people will show you their good side.  Almost everybody has a good side.  Just keep waiting.  It will come out.”

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

“Despite everything that is going on in my life and with my medical care, I still try to handwrite notes when it’s important to do so.  It’s just the nice thing to do.  And you never know what magic might happen after it arrives in someone’s mailbox.”

“I always liked telling my students ‘Go out and do for others what somebody did for you.’”

“I’ve found Thin Mints are a great communication tool.  They’re also a sweet reward for a job well done.”

“My dad had created a new set of communitarians.  He knew: when we’re connected to others, we become better people.”

“So my dreams for my kids are very exact: I want them to find their own path to fulfillment.  And given that I won’t be there, I want to make this clear: Kids, don’t try to figure out what I wanted you to become.  I want you to become what you want to become.”

**

Ultimately, for me, The Last Lecture is an uplifting reminder of the important things in life.  Through Randy’s life lessons, I found many experiences similar to mine and oppositely different.  Each of them taught me something unique about my journey – what it is now, and what I hope it to be.  If you’re looking for an inspirational read about what life has to offer (even to a dying man), I highly recommend The Last Lecture.

**If you’d like to join us for reading Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (tentatively aiming for completion at the end of June), learn more and sign up over here!

 

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