I’m a bit distracted as I write this. You would be too if this was your view:
The roar of the waves and the diamond-glint of the blue blue blue water keeps tempting me from the computer screen. I’ll write a few words and suddenly, I’m mesmerized by white foam crashing against black rocks. And the . . . is that the spray of a whale? It’s head pokes above the surf and I’m lost, hands frozen on the key board. I’ve stood on bluffs overlooking the frigid October ocean watching whales before. But there’s something surreal about a whale playing in my backyard.
Sigh. Enough. I’m torturing us both.
Seeing as how this post is scheduled for less than a handful of hours, I better pull my head out of vacation mode.
Let’s dive in.
Did the title worry you? Don’t let it. I’m horrible at polarizing people on political issues. Sure, I have my opinions, but I prefer to hear your point of view and why you believe what you do rather than arguing and trying to convince you to convert to my political or religious stance.
Raise your hand if you heard about #NationalSchoolWalkout. I hadn’t until my daughter’s high school sent an email to parents informing us that at 10 am on March 14th, our student might choose to walk out of class for 17 minutes to voice their outrage for the gun violence epidemic plaguing out nation.
One for every person killed February 14th at Stoneman Douglas High School.
Some of the participating students in my city used the remainder of the school day for rallies, speeches, and presentations. My daughter and her best friend, Tilie, chose to participate.
Since I hadn’t heard of the walkout before that email, I had minimal opinions on it. But I was eager to hear Emma’s. Teaching my kids to think, not simply regurgitate Tim and my opinions, has been one of our main focuses as parents.
March 14th came and I watched one of Tilie’s Facebook Live videos of a rally. The girl on stage mentioned her little brother who attends one of the local high schools, she hadn’t even begun to speak about her point when tears welled, my heart pounded, and an unexplained yearning rose up from my soul. Those first few seconds of that video transported me back to my sixteen year old self. Back in the early ’90s, when us Gen Xers had no cause. My parents generation had the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam. My Granny built Liberty ships during WWII. Back in high school I ached for meaning. Ached to make the world a better place. Ached for my life to mean something bigger.
Politically, I never got it.
But look at this picture:
Am I Next?
That sign pierces my heart and steals my breath. This is something I never worried about as a student. Not once. The Columbine High School Massacre happened three months after my son was born, and it hasn’t stopped since. My kids have lived under the possibility they might be next for their whole student career. This fear is unacceptable. It’s heinous. It’s evil. Yet it still continues.
My kids’ generation has a cause: Survival and the right to attend school, church, work, run marathons, concerts, go to movies, and simply live life without the nagging worry of dying from unnecessary violence.
As much as I ached in high school for a cause, multiply that by infinity, and that’s how much I wish that this cause wasn’t theirs. That parents didn’t have to attend their children’s funerals because of such senseless acts. But that visceral reaction was one of pride, too. My daughter has a cause and she is willing to stand up and say no more. It’s the epitome of brave.
And until I interviewed Emma and Tilie, I wasn’t aware of their awesome level of braveness.
Interview Question 1:
What did the walkout mean to you?
Tilie: I chose to participate in the walkout because I’m not okay with feeling afraid to go to school or go outside because crazy people or dumb people have access to killing machines. I also feel my voice as a teenager needs to be recognized more than it is right now, because teenagers are going to be taking the adults’ jobs as they phase out. What we want and need right now and in the future needs to be recognized. Before the walkout I heard multiple adults on the news saying that teenagers are incapable of organizing. That statement is not okay because teenagers are more than capable of doing anything we set out minds to.
Emma: I participated in the walkout because I believe the voices of children are sometimes the ones heard, instead of adults. I believe walking out of school and not coming back was a powerful way to get attention for our cause. I don’t believe guns should be banned, but I do think there should be tighter background checks and better mental health checks before someone is allowed to purchase a gun.
Since I’m fascinated in people acting brave despite their fear, I asked the girls a follow-up question.
Interview Question 2:
Were you nervous about participating? How did you overcome that fear?
Tilie: I was nervous. I heard that some local students posted pictures on social media of their guns saying they were ready for the walkout. But I knew there were so many adults walking with us, and police officers were patrolling our path, and I had my best friend right next to me, and so many people with me, that I knew if I did die, it was for something important and it would portray the dangers of guns in the hands of unprepared people.
Emma: I was a little nervous about participating because a lot of students from other high schools were posting pictures of guns on social media, saying they were ready for the rally. I decided that if I let fear keep me from participating in what I believed in, then I would never live life to the fullest. There is always a chance of getting shot, even when you’re just walking outside. I didn’t want a small chance of getting hurt to take away from me standing up for what I believe in.
Please take a moment with me to pause in shock and awe. And appalled disgust, honestly. My daughter and her bff (and thousands of other teens across the nation) chose to stand up for what they believed in DESPITE the threat and very real possibility someone might retaliate with violence because they disagreed with their cause.
What’s my point?
Acting in the face of fear.
Tilie and Emma, and the thousands of others walked for different reasons. They all had degrees of fear to overcome. Yet they did it. They stared fear in the face and they said, “NO! You cannot own me.”
To me, that’s brave. That is admirable. And so inspiring.
This is how we all should live.
You’ve heard me ask before, but I’m asking again. What fear holds you back?
For me, it’s generally fear of being betrayed and rejected.
For you? I bet it’s something else, but just as grab-you-by-the-heart-and-squeeze-until-you’re-drenched-in-sweat-and-tears kind of fear.
Name it. Tell someone. Tell me. Text me, email me, use any of my social medias, bare your soul in the comments. Regardless of how, tell someone. Because when you voice it that fear loses its power. I promise.
But that’s not the last step. You have to ACT.
Don’t stare at me. I see you inching your cursor towards the X to click off this post. Don’t disappoint yourself like that.
Commit. Commit right this second to the step you need to take to backhand fear in the face. Just like those kids, tell it, “No more!” It’s scary, but oh so worth it.
Now what? Ditto the “name it” step. Tell someone. Because once you name it, commit to act, and tell someone, how can you not follow through?
Like my wise daughter said, make the decision not to let fear keep you from participating in what you believe in. Don’t let it stop you from living life to the fullest.