When Our Children Tell Our Story

“I may not live to see our glory. But I will gladly join the fight.  And when our children tell our story.  They’ll tell the story of tonight. 

“Raise a glass to freedom, Something they can never take away, no matter what they tell you.  Raise a glass to the four of us.  Tomorrow there’ll be more of us.  Telling the story of tonight.” — from “The Story Of Tonight” song in Hamilton: The Musical.  (Photo from Power Point clip art.)

A few of these lines were changed in the song mash-up that was performed at Saturday’s March For Our Lives Rally.  This was a place that our children did indeed tell our story and their story and it was so very touching, sad and tragic.  But also hopeful since they were speaking out and trying to move forward.

On that day and afterwards, I heard a lot of positive comments about how well spoken the students were, their ability to draw such crowds, and how meaningful the music and the words were.  They were amazing and are trying to turn their pain and suffering into action for something that they believe in.

I also heard doubts, criticism, disbelief of what they were doing, the fear of guns being taken away, conspiracy theories, questions about their sincerity, and the fear that the 2nd Amendment would be abolished. That is extremely unlikely since it takes a  majority in Congress and many other events to happen. There are many rules for that.

And I read posts that two friends of mine made and was taken aback.  One had a picture of one of the boys from Parkland, FL in front of a swastika flag and said he was only angry and questioned his motivations and his personality.  The other post said there was no way that these kids would be doing this on their own and that they were being propped up by people.

To the first point: My question on this is, why wouldn’t he be angry? Let’s not forget that his friends and teachers died in his school. Others were injured there.  And, he spent part of Valentine’s Day hiding in a classroom as bullets were flying and hitting those he cares about.  That is an unimaginable thing for a student to have to deal with.

Also, anger is part of the grieving process.  Let’s face it there is much to grieve for these kids — the loss of friends, the loss of siblings, the loss of teachers, the loss of innocence, and the loss of feeling safe at a school.

These students and their generation have been dealing with these losses for years and years.  I have seen them in interviews saying they are the mass shooting generation.  To realize they have seen these things throughout their lives is heartbreaking and should give us a window into their thoughts.

In interviews, the students said they are in charge of the money, and the message they are giving and making.  They said that they aren’t endorsing candidates. They also aren’t being told what to do by adults with their own interests.  That seems to be a hard thing for many people to believe.

And let’s remember that these students who were born before 9/11 or soon after have sadly known violence and bloodshed throughout their entire lives.  They have heard of or been touched directly by Columbine, Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas, the Pulse nightclub, concerts in England and Las Vegas, churches in Tennessee and South Carolina, a movie theater, a campaign rally, a baseball game, and so many more.

They also have had to regularly practice armed intruder drills at school in the fear that this could happen.  My son’s elementary school is one of the schools that does this and I just hate it.  I hate that young kids have to practice how to be safe in this situation.  On the other hand, I want them to be prepared in case something does happen.

My last blog included the quote from Atticus Finch of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.  I think it would be good for us to do that with these young people.  Let’s stop putting our bias on them and think of what they have been dealing with.  We all do that whether we are in favor or them or not.

Imagine if you will, sitting at your desk in English class where you are about to take a vocabulary quiz.  You just had to stop at your locker to get your pencil since the other one broke in two as you raced between classes.  You then sit down and quickly say hi to your friends as the bell rings.  Your teacher then says hello and to get ready for the quiz.

You are writing down the third word when you hear pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, and screams.  Your training for hiding kicks in suddenly and you either hide somewhere in the room, you shield your friend from the flying bullets, or your teacher does.  The time seems to stand still as you hear screaming, crying, chaos, and a bullet striking your best friend.  You are frantic and not sure what to do.  So you nervously wait for what seems like hours.

You wait for someone to arrive to tell you it’s over, that you are okay, and that your friend who was shot will get that medical help he needs before he bleeds out on the floor.  You shake and try to call your parents who are equally freaked out.  You cry, you hold tight to your loved ones, and you realize that your life has changed and that school may never be the same again.

Were you able to imagine that?  I was and I cried.  Now I ask you, if you had been through all of that as a teenager, would you be the same afterwards?  Would you be sad, scared, mad, doubtful of humanity?  What would you feel?  What did these young people feel and still feel?

There are things in all of our lives that make an impact.  This is especially true of kids and teenagers.  Events mold them and stick with them.  I imagine these recent events will stick with these young people for years and years to come.

Whether you support them or not, let’s at least be kind to them and about them and try to understand where they are coming from.  Let’s not belittle them for trying to make sense of something that never should have happened in the first place.

Also, let’s be kind and loving to all of our young people. Let’s help them through tough times and support them in the good times.  Let’s be there when they need us.  Let’s help those who are at risk and who are having problems.  Let’s be better for them and for their futures.