Yesterday, seventeen teenagers—each of them full of promise, each of them beloved—were killed in yet another school shooting. Many more were wounded. One deeply troubled young man is in jail, facing the death penalty. It is horrifying. Terrifying.
We grieve with the family members and friends and classmates who have lost these beautiful young people. We grieve for the young man who was so filled with hate or despair or something we may never understand. We grieve for all our children and teachers and parents who are traumatized over and over again, with every school shooting.
One of the many awful things I heard on the news last night was the phrase, “a new normal.” The students being interviewed talked about how they knew what to do because their school had held practice drills. I have great admiration for the foresight of the administrators who organized those drills. Still, I am horrified that our children need to practice responding to another child with a gun. I am worried about the long-term impact on our young people and on our communities. How do we create a sense of safety without becoming suspicious of every person we perceive to be different from us? What do we do with the trauma that settles into our bodies, minds and spirits every time we learn of another shooting?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I believe with all my heart that what we seek to do at Open Spirit points in the right direction. We take the reality of trauma very seriously. Through our Veterans Yoga, our Nourishing Teachers-Strengthening Classrooms mindfulness classes, our yoga, art, meditation, Qi Gong Reiki programs, we offer healthy ways to release some of that trauma and reclaim our wholeness. Through our multi-faith gatherings and educational programs, we seek to bring people together, lowering barriers of suspicion and misunderstanding, building trust. We are a long way from Parkland, Florida; still, we are connected with that grieving town. I believe that the healing and community-building work we do here resonates far beyond our community.
It felt, at the time, like a bitter irony that this happened on Valentine’s Day. As I look back a day later, I realize that the holiday offers insight into how we are called to respond. There are many stories about the origins of this holiday; my favorite one is about the friendship formed between Valentine, when he was imprisoned for refusing to bow down to the Roman emperor, and the daughter of the jailer. When Valentine was ultimately taken to be executed, he left a letter for his friend, which he signed, “Your Valentine.” Valentine’s Day is not about romance; it is about how friendship gives us courage.
May the friendships we form and deepen here at Open Spirit inspire in us courage to face the challenges of these times.