The Faces that Haunt and Inspire Us

“When the power of love overcomes the love of  power, the world will know peace.” –Anonymous

The Faces that Haunt and Inspire us

I taught school for twenty-five years, and throughout the years, teaching certainly went through a number of changes, but today teachers, already underpaid with increasing expectations from parents, face a threat we never expected to have to deal with.

When I first began teaching, I only had to be concerned with developing curriculum and handling demanding parents and colleagues who really did not welcome me into their school.  I lasted two years before my husband was transferred, and I was happy to leave.

I eventually settled into teaching in Catholic schools, and even though I still faced some of the same issues, new ones emerged every year.  I saw way too much bullying.  I watched carefully over the loners, the ones without friends who sat alone in the cafeteria or looked for ways to avoid going to lunch, hiding out in the bathrooms or pretending to study in an empty classroom.  One year a boy in my class, a newcomer to the school, committed suicide.  He had been bullied at his previous school, but finding a new school was not the answer.  Somewhere along the line the system failed him.  One year while teaching summer school, I read the journal of a high school boy who seemed excessively angry at the man who was his guardian, the one person determined to help him.  I turned his journals in to the principal who copied a few pages and told me they were aware of his problems.  A few weeks after summer school ended, he killed his guardian and ended up in prison.  Once again the system failed.

In recent years increasing security measures were taken in the school where I taught.  Teachers, students, staff, and visitors had to be buzzed in, and because the school had a separate building that housed the gymnasium, students came and went between buildings all day.  While one student could buzz the door open, really anyone could join in at that point.  We had drills.  We had plywood covers for the glass windows in our doors.  The numbers of our classrooms were posted facing the outside of our windows so the police could locate the problem with an intruder.  We had plenty of emergency measures, but if someone with an assault weapon wanted to enter the school and shoot us all, he could.

I have two granddaughters, ages 7 and 3, and I cannot imagine the horrors of an intruder in their schools.  Teachers are heroic, today being called upon to deal with so much more than educating young minds.  I want to keep them all safe, but I can’t.

It should be obvious to us all now that we have to ban assault weapons and improve the way we deal with mental illness.  But we can’t let go of one universal truth:  good overcomes evil.   This was a recurring theme in the literature I taught my students.   Out of the Newtown tragedy has come an enormous good:  humanity coming together in grief and outrage, compassion and hope.  We can send cards.  We can send teddy bears.  But most of all we can change our world.  We can commit to 20 (or 26) acts of kindness, not just one day but every day.   That’s not hard.  If you scan through the Facebook postings of the acts of kindness that have already occurred, you can see what good has already come out of this tragedy.

I hope we will not forget the faces of the children who have been murdered as hard as it is to look at them.  The face of Emilie in particular followed by the faces of nineteen others brings me to tears every time I see them. Their sweetness, their innocence, their potential haunts me, but if we forget them like we have done in the past with other crime victims, then evil will win.  We cannot let that happen.  The good in us must overcome evil.  Every one of us must do something.  We have to fight for gun control.  We have to help children who early on show signs of mental illness, or those who are bullied, or those who feel alone and unloved.  We can do that and we must.

“What Must I Do”?

“God know my situation.
I am but one,
but I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but I can do something.”

Bishop Barbara Clementine Harris

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