Saving Our Children From Violence

This is the blog post that I didn’t want to write, and yet it kept nagging me to do so. Total Soulful Journey is about living joyful lives, but unfortunately we can’t hide our heads in the sand and expect horrible situations to go away and never come back on their own.

  Photography by Paul Garrett

Photography by Paul Garrett

TWENTY YEARS OF SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

I was living in Oregon in 1998 when a major school shooting took place at Thurston High School in Springfield not all that far from my home. The shooter struggled with dyslexia and depression. He also had suicidal thoughts, but he couldn’t bring himself to end his own life. Furthermore, he testified in court after the shooting that he had three different voices in his head that persuaded him to commit his horrible acts of violence. At the root of this tragedy was a kid who was deeply suffering and he took out his anger and his frustrations on his parents, who he killed, and then on his classmates at school. 

This event shook our community to the core and the sad memories of it are still incredibly strong in Springfield and Eugene. These are tightly knit communities and I met some of the victims and their families through my church and through my ex-wife’s office back then. I saw their wounds and attended memorials for the two boys who were killed. As you can imagine, we were all horrified that this could happen in our community. 

Well here we are almost twenty years later and this problem has only gotten worse. Following each of these shootings we continue to focus almost exclusively on the hot button political topic of “gun control.” This is an important topic, but these shootings involve so many other issues that also contribute to this on going problem.

  Photography by Paul Garrett

Photography by Paul Garrett

IT'S TIME TO SET ASIDE POLITICS AND HAVE AN HONEST CONVERSATION

Our children should never feel or be unsafe at school and it is time as a nation that we set aside politics and have an honest and open conversation without name calling. It’s vital for the safety of all kids that we open our hearts and our minds and start asking pertinent questions that speak to the "root causes" of these horrible tragedies so that we can truly prevent them from ever happening again.

These are just a few questions off the top of my head:

  1. Why do school shootings happen? 
  2. What are the commonalities between all of these tragedies? 
  3. Why are some of our nation’s children falling through the cracks and committing these horrible acts?
  4. How can we prevent bullying in our schools and create a culture of harmony?
  5. What can we do to help at risk children so that they never turn to violence?
  6. Why do we let the main stream media exploit these tragedies and make the shooters famous?
  7. How many of the shooters were taking psychotropic medications and is there a correlation?
  8. How can we make sure that parents in our communities have the support that they need to raise their kids with love?
  9. How can we help kids in our communities feel valued and provide them with guidance and support?
  10. How can we prevent kids from ever getting guns and ammo?

Unfortunately many kids suffer from unimaginable physical, emotional and sexual abuse as they are growing up. Even more experience neglect, which is the most common form of child abuse. And then there are kids who suffer from mental illness (we need to remove the stigma that keeps people from seeking treatment for mental health issues and make sure that there are resources to help them). So how can we as a community help identify these at risk children at an early age and give them the love, the guidance and the support that they need to develop a healthy sense of self esteem and purpose as they are growing up so that they do feel like they matter? Let's think about this question and also look at organizations that are already addressing these issues.

Please watch this powerful video from RachelsChallenge.org and consider what you can do to make a difference in another person's life.

DOING BETTER FOR OUR CHILDREN

Last year I worked on a video project for a non profit organization called, 90by30. They are working diligently to make sure that child abuse does not happen in the first place, and to do so they are creating community based solutions that can be replicated around the country. According to the directors of this program there is a role for everyone in our communities to help kids grow up in healthy environments that will assist them in becoming happy and productive adults.

And just last week a school district near Cincinnati, Ohio received a threat in the wake to the school shooting in Florida. This hit close to home and had a profound effect upon my co-blogger, Libby and her children. Thankfully the school district and local law enforcement took immediate measures to secure the schools, to notify parents and to find the suspect. Overnight they installed 155 security cameras at the high school and at the junior high, they added additional locks, they implemented a photo ID check in system at the front desk, as well as other measures. What's important is that they took this threat very seriously, beefed up security and prevented another tragedy from happening.

ACTING OUT IS A CRY FOR HELP

Behavioral problems are a cry for help. A kid who acts out needs love, compassion and support. I know that these situations are complex and that schools are often hard strapped to have the resources to help these kids turn their lives around, but we have to do better than we are currently doing and it’s time to make our kids a priority. It’s easy to complain, throw blame around and then do nothing. It’s also easy to hand this problem over to the government and expect our Members of Congress to solve it. The reality as we have experienced it for the past twenty years is that things are not going to change until we the people get involved and help make the changes happen.

When we come together for the common good and examine all of the problems and the potential solutions with open minds, there is nothing that we can't achieve together. Let’s have an open and respectful discussion that comes from love and not from fear, and make this world a better place for all beings. Keeping in mind that all kids need love, security, compassion, guidance, encouragement and to know that they matter, Libby and I would love to hear your ideas for helping at risk youth and how we can keep our children safe.

With peace & love,

Paul

 

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