I’m a teacher. I work at a school. Every time there’s a school shooting, my heart breaks. I think about what I’d do if I were in that situation, how I’d react. It’s terrifying. It’s my worst nightmare. It’s something I can’t become numb to. I’m laying in bed exhausted after a 13.5-hour work day, but unable to sleep because I can’t stop thing about it.
But what’s almost worse? Social media after shootings happen.
My newsfeed is filled with people arguing about gun control and arguing about whether “thoughts and prayers” are better or worse than “policy and change.” We post our opinion, think it’s enough, and move on with our lives (and maybe even get in a comment war with a stranger). We feel better because we spoke out, but in reality, all we’re doing is pointing the finger and putting the onus on someone else to fix OUR horrible situation.
I can promise you, the president won’t ever see your post calling him out. The head of the NRA won’t read your post about gun control. Calling “them” out is an easy way to make ourselves feel better because, in our minds, the blame no longer lies with us. The shooting hits us hard, and then we forget about it because it’s far away and we don’t see the repercussions or long-term damage it causes.
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Maybe … just maybe … the problem is us.
And maybe … the change starts with us.
With you and me.
It starts with us actually CARING about each other. It starts with us NOTICING when people are left out and actually INCLUDING them. It starts with us SMILING at a stranger. It starts with us LOOKING and ACKNOWLEDGING the people around us. It starts with us LEARNING about mental health rather than shaming it. It starts with us TALKING with our kids about tough subjects instead of trying in vain to shelter them. It starts with us COMPLIMENTING people instead of degrading them. It starts with ASKING how people are doing and actually LISTENING. It starts with us RESPECTING and EMBRACING differences. It starts with LOVING our neighbors. It starts with INVITING people in.
Real change requires action, not idle blame. Those words above are in all-caps on purpose because they’re all verbs — things we can do. I’m not saying shootings are OK or comprehensible. Of course they’re not. But I can’t help but wonder: In 19 years of life, could something have been DONE? I bet so. Was this kid respected? Was he heard? Did the people around him notice? Did he know he was loved? Was he included? It’s not an excuse — there is no excuse. But if I had to guess, I’d say probably not.
If you’re going to call out the government, the NRA, the president, and whoever else on Facebook, fine. But, please, I’m begging you, follow it up with action. It’s not my intention to start a big debate. Is there a correlation between guns and shootings? Duh. Are there people who use guns responsibly? Duh. Are there people who will kill in other ways if they can’t get hold of a gun? Duh. Will getting rid of military-style weapons diminish the number of people you can shoot at one time? Duh.
In reading about Florida, I’m pissed. I’m sad. I’m at a loss. But what if we stand together to channel the anger, the outrage, the questions, and every other emotion into creating a better day for the people we encounter? Treat the people around you a little bit better. Care a little bit deeper. Notice a little bit more. Simple acts create better moments, better days and a better world.
How silly would it be to see a homeless man and think, “He looks hungry. It would be really nice of me to give him money. Or better yet, buy him some food. It would be even nicer to invite him to come eat with me!” And then we pass by feeling like a good person because we thought so many nice things — but we never actually did them. We didn’t help. We accomplished nothing. We saw an opportunity and chose not to act.
Yes, I’m being absolutely hypocritical by posting something about how posting isn’t enough. BUT, I’m going to follow it up with action.
Stand up for the change that needs to happen by living out your words and your beliefs.
Maybe that’s where real change will begin. But if not, it’ll still do a heck of a lot more good than your broken heart emoji status. #NoMoreDeadKids
Lauren Macey is an eighth-grade English teacher and the instructional coach at Syringa Middle School in Caldwell. She was the 2016-17 district teacher of the year. She posted this on her Facebook page.