These simple common-sense steps are adapted from a post I published on my blog after the horrific Newtown, Conn., massacre. Our hearts ache, but we are not completely helpless or hopeless in the face of evil and the unknown. And we are not alone. This Christmas, cherish life, keep faith and practice self-empowerment.
7. Teach our kids about the acts of heroes in times of crisis. Tell them about Newtown teacher Vicki Soto’s self-sacrifice and bravery. Tell them about Clackamas mall shopper Nick Meli, a concealed-carry permit-holder whose quick action may have prevented additional deaths. Tell them about Family Research Council security guard Leo Johnson, who protected workers from a crazed gunman. Tell them about the heroic men in the Aurora movie theater who gave their lives taking bullets for their loved ones. Tell them about armed Holocaust Museum security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns, who died fighting back against the museum’s nutball attacker. Tell them about armed private citizen Jeanne Assam, who gunned down the New Life Church attacker in Colorado Springs and saved untold lives.
6. Train our kids. When they see something troublesome or wrong, say something. Students, teachers and parents, if a young classmate exhibits bizarre or violent behavior toward himself or herself, report it right away. If it gets ignored, say it louder. Don’t give up. Don’t just shrug off the “weirdo” saying or doing dangerous things, and don’t just hope someone else will act.
5. Limit our kids’ time online, and control their exposure to desensitizing cultural influences. Turn off the TV. Get them off the bloody video games. Protect them from age-inappropriate Hollywood violence. Make sure they are active and engaged with us and the world, and not pent up in a room online every waking moment.
4. If you see a parent struggling with an out-of-control child, don’t look the other way. If you are able to offer any kind of help (your time, resources, wisdom), do it. Don’t wait.
3. We still don’t know the medical condition of the Newtown shooter. But we do know that social stigmas are strong. We don’t need government to take immediate, individual action to break those stigmas. There are millions of children, teens and young adults suffering from very real mental illnesses. Be silent no more about your family’s experiences, your struggles, your pains and your fears. Speak up.
2. Prepare and protect your community. Joe Cascarelli of Westcliffe, Colo., wrote me about how he and other citizens took their children’s safety into their own hands. “It was 10 years ago that our sheriff put an ad in the local paper to initiate the formation of the Sheriff’s Posse. About 40 of us volunteered; today we have about 20 active Posse members. Eight years ago, the Posse command staff offered to provide the local school district with daily security patrols when the school was in session, at school athletic events and during school dances including the annual prom.” Law enforcement conducted emergency drills, training to prepare for mass shootings and joint sessions with first responders.
“The Posse has continued its patrols at school events and during the school day. Posse patrols have become a visible, accepted part of our community,” Cascarelli told me. “Anyone intent on harm would see armed uniformed personnel at the school daily. The Posse even has an Amber Alert at the local rodeo. When an atrocity like Columbine, Virginia Tech and most recently in Newtown, Conn., happens, all we hear is carefully crafted words of grief, heartrending interviews with parents, and TV’s talking heads with knee-jerk ‘solutions.’ Well, our little community has implemented a local solution. Trained, armed volunteers daily protect our children. What is the matter with the rest of the country? Where are concerned parents and citizens willing to carve out some time to provide similar security?”
1. Teach our kids to value and respect life by valuing and respecting them always. And in loving and valuing life, teach them also not to fear death. The Catholic hymn “Be Not Afraid” offers time-tested solace and sage advice:
If you pass through raging waters, in the sea, you shall not drown.
If you walk amidst the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
If you stand before the pow’r of hell and death is at your side, know that I am with you, through it all.
Be not afraid, I go before you always.
Come follow Me and I shall give you rest.