In the contemplative aftermath of the recent tragedy that hit Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., I felt compelled to write.
Having worked with young people for many years, I am continually amazed at the potential and gifts that they have to offer the world around them. I believe each one of them, as each one of us has been, was fearfully and wonderfully made by God with a unique purpose in this life that only we, as individuals, can champion. Unfortunately, too few are ever told this truth and continue to wander aimlessly, without purpose and with great confusion, feeling that their only option is to strike out at others in violence and hate.
Why does this happen continually in our nation? I am afraid I do not have the answers. It is impossible to place blame on any one segment of the population. What I do know is that each of us has the opportunity to possibly prevent it from happening in the future.
Consider our own community ... it is imperative that we take a moment to recognize and value the young people around us. In some respects, I believe it does "take a village," or rather in our case, a town, to raise a child. Each one of us impacts the lives of so many others, either directly or indirectly. Prevention of this kind of tragic event may be as simple as students in our schools being taught and then actively recognizing and valuing diversity, rather than casting aside and ridiculing those who are different. There is so much we can learn from those that are different from ourselves.
It has been said that if you tell someone long enough, they will believe it. For parents, I pose this question: When was the last time that you told your child how special they are and how much you value them? Was it in passing, or did you take time to let them know that they come before your work, your social life, your stress?
Children are a gift -- we, as parents, are merely given the honor to help them unwrap themselves to find out what fabulous talents, giftings and purposes lie within. Nothing is more important in your day than telling your child that they have value. Remember, if you tell your child enough times how special and loved they are -- maybe they will believe it.
To members of our community, young and old alike: We tend to dwell on the negative things we hear about young people -- the mistakes they make, the problems they have and the trouble they sometimes get into. As young people, they are searching to find out who they are, what they are capable of and to find their own place in this world.
We too made mistakes when we were their ages. I hope that we extend the same grace to them that was extended to us. We can regard some of their actions, in our own eyes of wisdom that comes from age, and see a better way, but we cannot ridicule their efforts and devaluate them because of them. I have seen too many problems arise from young people failing to recognize their own self-worth. Chances are, nobody took the time to tell them how important they are.
I do not pretend to know how we can absolutely prevent tragedies like what happened in Littleton, but I do know that if we just took a few moments to speak a few words of encouragement, it might go a long way in raising a generation that did not find it necessary to answer their own feelings of inferiority with violence towards others.
Payson mother and youth pastor