As I sit and write this column I am, like you, heartbroken for the families of the children, coaches and teachers killed in the Parkland, Florida, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting this week.
Why did this happen and why does it keep happening? I don’t have the answers.
I did, however, reflect on what the Rev. Kristen Pope, children’s minister at Rome First Baptist Church, posted on her Facebook page. Kristen said, “And as I began to cry out in frustration, how long until change will come, LORD?" She then said, “I was interrupted by GOD asking me the very same thing. May we all hear this interruption.”
There are many suggestions — from gun control to better care and treatment of mental illness — coming from politicians and ordinary citizens. None seem to be adopted and the madness seems to numb us into acceptance of school shooting tragedies as normal occurrences.
Parents are scared to send their children to school and, while at school, children are (rightfully) forced to participate in emergency preparedness drills in the event a shooter decides to attack their school.
I think we should all reflect on the wise words from Rev. Pope. Let’s consider interrupting our individual lives and seek to change how we act toward and serve one another. How would GOD have us act so that change will come?
I believe we begin to enact change through education. Academic and Christian education are both needed if we are to change our families, communities, state, nation and world. I know someone is going to read this and counter that education is available and free for all. Public educators can’t teach religion of any denomination. Churches can and do teach the foundation that children will need as they grow and develop the strengths and values they will need as they move through life to adulthood.
Rome and Floyd County schools recently held pre-K registration. Many parents who registered children understand the importance of pre-K and want their children ready to learn on grade level. Because the school systems have a limited number of seats, they hold a lottery. Those that don’t get a seat in the lottery may or may not attend pre-K. Both systems say they do everything possible to find seats for pre-K students.
Pre-K education could present an opportunity for us as individuals to enact community change to ensure all eligible children are afforded a pre-K seat. This change will help prepare children to become better adults.
Our community recently passed general and education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes. Surely, if the churches and school systems can work together, this community can find the necessary funds.
Considering the events this past week, pre-K education may seem a small and insignificant way to react to a shooter entering a school. My wife and I have many friends and relatives who teach. We’ve heard them all speak of genuine care about, and love for, their students. Every teacher I have known speaks excitedly of “seeing the light come on” in a child. Teachers recognize changes in a child. They know when a child is hurting. They do their best to help that hurt. Teachers want all children to learn and experience love, joy, peace and hope.
Love, joy, peace, and hope could be the change that someday equips a child or an adult to prevent a tragedy.
Otis Raybon is the publisher of the Rome News-Tribune.