This was not the subject I planned to write about immediately following Christmas. But I could not ignore the story. A local news headline read, “Toddler critically injured by a gunshot.” None of those words belong in the same sentence, yet here they were again.
An innocent 18-month old baby, sitting in the backseat of a car, had been shot. I don’t know the whole story. Just that someone shot a gun into an SUV and a bullet struck the child.
The shooting occurred the day after Christmas, near my school.
I quickly checked the location of the incident, wondering if I knew the family. Faces of students immediately came to mind. Did they have younger siblings? I didn’t know.
Further investigation showed this specific apartment complex is not one of my school’s neighborhoods. But it was very close.
For a brief moment, I felt relief. And just as quickly, guilt. The reality is a child was shot. And whether or not I have any connection makes the story no less tragic.
I began to wonder. Would my reaction differ if I had known this child or family? Would my anger and sadness lead to action? And if so, what possible action could I take?
Too many unanswered questions. Too many stories repeated. Too many children left with overwhelming emotional scars.
Being a teacher, I sometimes witness the manifestation of these scars. Withdrawal, aggression, and fear top the list. All lead to an inability to connect with others. An inability to trust. An inability to love or be loved.
I teach in a building full of individuals who love every day. We set expectations while recognizing the need for grace. We challenge students while also advocating for them. We mostly smile during the day and sometimes cry at night. I know this is true in other schools as well.
So, how do we continue? Especially in the face of such heart-wrenching stories. We hook arms, grit our teeth, and hold each other up. Remind each other of our purpose. Offer reassurance that what we do each day matters.
We love in hopes of making a difference.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
” Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18