Cry, pray – and then take action
Hello, kind readers.
I have found it difficult to concentrate on writing this week. I must email my column to the fine folks at The Express by Thursday at 5 p.m. As you read this on Saturday (or later), remember what happened on Wednesday afternoon in Parkland, Florida and the reactions and responses that were broadcast from that point on.
When a school shooting occurs, my response is to obsessively read news articles and watch the coverage on television and online, and it has been this way since Columbine. If you were a teacher, a student or the parent of a student in April and May of 1999, you may remember for the first time, feeling fearful in a place that had always been safe. I vividly remember standing alone in my first-floor classroom, looking out the large windows and wondering what were the chances of my fellow teachers and my students experiencing the horror that had occurred at Columbine. I closed the curtains, feeling vulnerable and sad.
Since that time, we as a nation are no longer surprised by the headlines of another school shooting. As a community, we are grateful that we have been spared. As a grandmother, I am frightened and my fear stems primarily from the fact that I have little hope of ever returning to a time of schools being one of the safest places for our children to be.
What are we to do? How can we as individuals and members of small communities help reduce the threat of school violence?
I do not have answers, but I do have opinions. Just as before, once hearing about another school shooting, I read and I watched; but this time it was different. As I watched interview after interview, I listened closely to Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and Sandy Hook Promise cofounder Nicole Hockley. I heard them refer to HR 4909 – STOP School Violence Act of 2018. So, I googled it.
HR 4909 was introduced on Jan. 30, 2018 and sponsored by Representative John Rutherford, a Florida Republican. There are three cosponsors: Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY), Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Representative Theodore Deutch (D-FL). Also on Jan. 30, 2018, the House of Representatives referred it to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On Feb. 7, 2018, HR 4909 was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, by the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Are you enthralled with my riveting prose? Probably not. Are you impressed with my detailed knowledge of a bill very recently introduced? You shouldn’t be. This information was easy to find and even easier to follow. Just go to https://www.congress.gov and search HR 4909. Upon reaching the appropriate page, you will have all of the above information and more at your fingertips. You can sign up for alerts (which I did), and follow what is happening (or not happening).
When bad things happen, we can talk, but we also need to listen. We can accept the “facts” and opinions of others, or we can do our own research and form our own opinions. Then, we can choose to act. This column is more about action, such as contacting my representative, than inaction, such as sitting on the couch with a box of Kleenex.
I responded differently to this school shooting than all the others, and that is because of Stone Soup Literacy. I will still shed tears and pray for the students, families, and community, but I won’t stop there. And neither should you.
Dale Carnegie wrote, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Next time, I’ll climb down from my soapbox and share more about writing and journaling. Until then, keep busy, my friends.
As always, I would love to hear from you. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathy Gephart is a retired public school educator and the founder of Stone Soup Literacy (www.stonesoupliteracy.com) whose mission is to build readers, one community at a time. Email Kathy at email@example.com.