Sadly, there are cliches that have developed when it comes to school shootings.
(This is sad because school shootings should be so infrequent that each is remembered as a historic tragedy, like the Challenger space shuttle explosion, but just the opposite is true.)
First, people will call for thoughts and prayers. Then Facebook will develop a border for profile pictures that say something to the effect of “praying for (insert name of school that was recently attacked).”
Then the gun control people will start. They’ll be joined by the “we need help for mental illness victims” gang.
Next will be the “it’s too soon to talk about gun control” and “it’s disrespectful to the victims to make this political” crowds.
Right about this time is when the government starts discussing responses to the matter. Six months after that, some bill aimed at reducing the chance of another school shooting will be laid to rest … and we’ll all be back to square one.
But the one that happened in Florida today has triggered an entirely new response I’ve seen multiple times on social media: the mockery of the “thoughts and prayers” response. Yeah, I get the point. They believe we need to do more than pray, specifically at the legislative level. They want laws passed, etc., etc.
(I mock the idea of more laws helping anything, truth be told.)
It is true there is no way to stop a well-armed school shooter who has knowledge of the building layout and procedures school staff and students have rehearsed. Technology exists to help the building occupants’ chances, but school districts don’t have the money for these kinds of purchases. Arming teachers is a joke, too. A person has to have many hours of experience handling, using and embracing a handgun to be comfortable enough with it to respond swiftly and safely under pressure. A lot of people think they’d turn into a special agent for the FBI in the event of a bank robbery or if they came across someone getting mugged in the parking lot, but it’s easier said than done. Some weekend seminar on firearm safety isn’t going to be enough for the vast majority of teachers.
So don’t attack those who view thoughts and prayers as all they can really do about it.
We should never, ever stop praying in times like these. Seriously. No, I’m not the formally religious type. I don’t even know what religion to call my family and actually dislike the institution of church. But I will tell you what the lot of us has: faith. It may not be as strong as it should or could be, but there’s at least a little flicker of a flame somewhere inside. While it seems at times God is not by our children at school each day, protecting them and keeping them safe, He is. He must be. We have to believe this or we have nothing at all left on days like today.
My middle school-age daughter asked me tonight while watching coverage of this shooting if I thought her school was safe. I told her she’s at greater risk for mesothelioma (her school district was recently given an F on some report card for building maintenance) than she is being shot. And this is true.
So tomorrow, I will watch her get on the bus in the morning like she always does and know she will come home safely. I will give my son a hug and kiss goodbye as I leave him off inside his daycare classroom. I will be aware of Earthly threats, but confident God will provide the protection necessary and wisdom to teachers and administrators to respond should a threat arise.
I hope we citizens – public and private – come up with a way to reduce the number of tragedies that are occurring in our schools, but I know God controls everything that will happen throughout the course of my children’s day, their mother’s and mine.
I can’t directly move a nation to action, but I can pray. I can keep people in my thoughts. This is something I can do. God listens.
And I will never stop doing this, no matter how ineffective it may seem to some or hopeless it feels to me at times.