- Paula Cristina Azevedo
A Call for Peace
It’s been a week since the mass shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. I wish this was the first time all of us felt the confusion and deep sadness that comes after a mass shooting, but we know exactly the script after each mass shooting. We hear calls for prayer, outrage on social media, long speeches from politicians, shock, unbearable aches in our hearts, moments of silence in our morning school announcements, flags at half mast, an additional active shooter drills in our schools, and then after several weeks those of us not directly impacted by the mass shooting return to our daily lives to only be shocked again by another mass shooting months later. And press repeat. The same prayers, outrage, speeches, pains and suffering resurface again and again.
As I write this it sounds like a horrible recurring nightmare, but unfortunately it is not. When Columbine happened I was in high school and thought that Columbine was just an anomaly, but it turned out that we would see more school shooting and mass shootings throughout the years.
It is the new reality that many school administrators, teachers, students, and parents live in. The reality of this constant uncertainty about the safety of our schools and our physical bodies. The questions rattle in our heads: Is our school next? Will our students be the next target? What will we do if the unthinkable happens?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers on why mass shootings occur or how to stop them. But, I do wonder how can I be a part of the solution. For me the answer lies in what I do everyday in my personal and professional life. Here’s what I actively do to combat hate and violence (this list is not in any specific order):
I love and respect my students everyday
I volunteer in a local afterschool program that actively engages children and teenagers in becoming engaged, kind, and active citizens
I am compassionate
I seek out resources and teach about peace and nonviolent movements
I create a safe learning environment for all my students to be themselves and to take intellectual risks
I am a well informed local, national, and global citizen and actively participate in my responsibilities as a citizen
I take care of myself in body, mind and spirit in order to do the important work of teaching
I am an advocate for my students and teach my students to be their own advocates
I teach peace
I challenge the status quo
I try my best to walk, talk, think, and act in peaceful ways
These may seem small and insignificant ways to resist the hate that seems to be infecting our nation and world today, but if everyone took similar steps to live in light and love rather than darkness and hate then perhaps we would see less violence. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only Light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." What are you going to do today, tomorrow, next week, the next few month, and for the rest of your life to drive out darkness and live a life of love?