Last week, in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Cornerstone felt dark, eerily dark. Our students' behavior seemed to hit an all-time low and almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong (although, our issues paled in comparison to Parkland). While more than a few students came to me to discuss the shooting, wondering if I had an answer, I do not think that the poor behavior was necessarily related to the grim news from Florida. That being said, from an administrator's perspective, the pairing was a weight almost too heavy to carry.
On Friday afternoon, as I walked the halls checking on classes and trying to keep ahead of the storm -- willing myself to the closing bell and the impending three-day weekend -- I noticed a parent walking up and down our hallways and stairwells and around our property. When approached by one of our staff members, he replied, "Don't worry. I'm not crazy nor am I lost, I'm just praying."
Over the last week, I have read and heard numerous people ridicule the offer of "thoughts and prayers" for the families of the students killed in Parkland. I understand that events like this raise the ire of the competing sides, but to attack people for appealing to God, our Creator, at a time of pain and suffering is shocking to me. And, I would contend, it is this attitude of belittling God that is at the root of much of what ails our teens, if not our entire country.
This is the hard truth: Our children are in crisis! Having worked with youth for over 25 years (in both rich and poor communities through mentoring, tutoring, coaching, not to mention in founding Cornerstone and as its Principal) I can tell you that there is a pain and longing in our youth that is palpable -- the manifestation of which is surely behind the violence we are far too often witnessing.
I have no desire to weigh in on the current political debate on Parkland. I do, however, cherish the "thoughts and prayers" of anyone willing to give them -- especially on our darkest days. In fact, I would encourage everyone, regardless of political persuasion, to step into the gap for our children -- whether that be "prayer walking" around Cornerstone or some other school in your neighborhood or stepping up to volunteer with this next generation of children that need our love and crave our attention. We all need to be present in our children's lives, our neighbor's children's lives, and in the lives of the many children who too often seem not to have a caring adult in their lives.
Prayer works. Love is powerful. Be present.