A Heavyweight Heart

After a full day of work advising students from all walks of life alongside my amazing colleagues, I (and a few of those said colleagues) volunteered at a holiday party for the Boys and Girls Club. My job for the night hinged on helping kids make miniature gift boxes, which, at first, seemed really confusing; I worried that I would be spending a lot of my time apologizing for not knowing how to make the craft. However, I got it on the first try, and I spent the remainder of the night teaching kids how to fold and cut cards to make the little boxes. I may have made six or so for myself, just like some of the more enthusiastic kids did.

One of the greatest lessons I learned as a young adult was to never lose that sense of wonder (thank you, Don Johnson). I try to practice that, and I suppose it’s part of the reason that: a. I don’t want kids of my own at this point in time (because I basically still feel like a child myself); and b. Why kids and I actually get along (even though I’m not a “kid person.” It’s contradictory, truly.). Kids tend to like me a lot.

Today, though, a gunman wiped out the potential to wonder and marvel at the world for twenty children and several adults, including his own mother. As a non-parent, my feelings pale in comparison to those belonging to the families of the young victims. As someone who has worked and continues to work in visible roles, especially in education, I am upset.

I read that the principal died today. I read that she had been an administrator for twelve years and that her enthusiasm for education and the schoolchildren was unbelievable. I read her Twitter account, and from it, I could tell that she was invested in the future of those children.

And in that I see an investment that is familiar in my life. When both your parents come from education backgrounds, you understand that educators make sacrifices. Usually, those sacrifices are things like long hours, or staying up late to review a lesson plan, or volunteering at a school event, or being used as a verbal punching bag. The rewards are great, however, seeing the way students light up when they remember how you helped, and–from what I hear–when you run into them years later and hear about the things they have accomplished. Many of those attained goals would not be possible without losing the ability to imagine, to look forward, to wonder. And we are there to encourage them, to learn alongside, to grow and wonder just the same.

And we will be there, despite any outliers’ selfish motives to take out their revenge on the innocent. I would be lying if I said part of my training and education didn’t involve addressing the reality that someone could pull a weapon on me for making a mistake or saying something related to their education that they didn’t like.

“My job is to be a cheerleader for other people’s children,” as Dr. Larry Roper would say. You have my word on this, even though we know that school is not a sanctuary.

We should not, however, live in fear that our schools, our public spaces, our means of transportation are targets. We must shift the cultural paradigm somehow–and I don’t have the answers on how to do that–so that the fear those children and all the victims experienced is never replicated.

Don’t cultivate fear; don’t let it win. Cultivate wonder. Cultivate change by giving back to your community. Tell someone you love them. Ask someone if everything is okay.

And please, whatever you do, pray or meditate or do what it is you do to keep the victims of violence–of this act and beyond–and their families in your hearts.


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