Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chardon - Loss and Lessons

Our whole area is in mourning after the tragic shootings at Chardon High School claimed the lives of three students and left two others injured. We cannot imagine the grief the families of those students are going through, all we can do is pray for them. Everyone is stunned. How can this happen in a close-knit, small town community like Chardon? How can this happen to us? How can we heal from this? 

In a coffee shop this morning I overheard a woman saying that while the High School in Chardon is closed this week, they should go in and repaint the cafeteria where the shooting occurred. She said that they should reconfigure the layout of the room and do everything possible to change it so that when the students return, it will be to a new room, and not the same one where their friends died. I totally understand her sentiment and agree that changing the cafeteria physically might help the school move on, but it will never erase what happened there. Innocence has been lost and cannot be regained for the students at Chardon High.  I hope the counselors that have been sent there can help the students and faculty work through their grief and fears, because to avoid or cover up those emotions will surely push them down deeper where they may erupt later and cause more emotional damage.

Is there anything we can learn from this? Is there anything we can do to prevent similar tragedies happening again?  Chardon HS had gone through drills in preparation for a school shooting and the procedures that they followed may have lessened the number of victims. I just want to thank the faculty and staff that bravely acted to protect their students. One coach chased the gunman out of the school, putting himself in harm's way to protect all his students. Teaching is not a profession in our day that is given a lot of respect. Yet teachers are responsible for the well-being, not just the education, of those in their class rooms. Please hug your child's teacher today. They act "in loco parentis" (in place of a parent) towards your child. They need all the support and encouragement they can get.

Also the procedures put in place by the Chardon HS staff enabled the parents to find their kids afterwards in a calm and organized fashion. No chaos. These are procedures we learnt from the Columbine tragedy. Even during the stress and shock of the situation, the adults at Chardon High did all they could to return their charges safely to the parents.

So as a community is there anything to be learnt from this? Is there anything we can do? Can we prevent another young man, a school outcast, from turning hostile and following through on a violent impulse? Yesterday morning in our study group, we were discussing who it was that Jesus specifically came to minister to. We talked about how he spent a lot of time with the outcasts of his day: people with horrific diseases, prostitutes, corrupt government workers, folks of mixed race, and the people that didn't have anything but had to beg to survive. These are the people he spent time with, much to the chagrin of the holier-than-thou religious leaders.

Who are the outcasts of our day? Who are the people that don't really have a valued place in our society? Prostitutes, people with mental illness and disabilities, the poor, the elderly, and perhaps even veterans? Who are the outcasts in our schools? Kids that don't excel in anything? ( team sports, academic achievement and musical skills are highly lauded in our society ) Kids from fractured homes where they don't really fit into either of their parent's new families? Kids from single parent homes whose parent is so busy trying to earn a living that the children have to fend for themselves? Abused children? Introverted kids who have trouble navigating the social rigours of our large educational institutions?

But yes, there is something we can do. We can reach out to those folks who are falling between the cracks: 
There are plenty of other ways to love those people that society tends to ignore. Will this help prevent another school shooting? I don't know. I do know that the young man who perpetrated the violence at Chardon HS had experienced violence in his home and his parents were divorced.

I am called to love everyone, especially those who are hard to love, those who are not beautiful and successful, those that are hurting. Loving in this way would be a wonderful memorial for the students we lost in Chardon.

"... serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14b,15


  1. The Chardon tragedy broke my heart, and it came on the heels of another heartbreak in our community - a young man who attended my kids' high school committed suicide over the weekend. And another hometown soldier was killed in the attack surrounding the Quran burning.

    God bless all the families who've lost loved ones this week.

  2. Hearing of another school tragedy broke my heart as well. I'm praying for the families of those dear children, for the friends they left behind, and for the young man who did it. Praise God we have a Savior who can change him into a new creation...just like He did for us.

  3. I'm praying that all the grieving relatives would feel God's comfort. He knows every tear that they shed.