It has been a rough week. The shooting in a Florida high school has rocked our country to the core. Again. The pain feels so familiar, yet so new. So raw. So unfathomable.
In the midst of sadness for the loss of innocent life at the hands of one so young and the brokenness of our society, there is anger. And fear. And hate. And finger-pointing. And misunderstanding. And polarizing debates surrounding gun control.
I want to hide from it all. My instinct is to gather my loved ones close and disconnect from the world that is overflowing with evil, despair, and blame. I want to shut out the voices shouting that we are doomed, that society is irreparable, that we cannot trust anybody, that fear need be our companion every time we send our kids off to school.
I don’t want to worry about the future and what it will look like if we keep going on our current trajectory. What about my kids? And their kids? Will they be safe going about their daily routines? Or will they be swallowed by the vicious monster that threatens to tear us apart?
Several years ago, I was considering a few different educational paths for my children. They were getting older, and the worries of middle and high school were looming overhead. School shootings were happening more frequently, not to mention drugs, sex, bullying, and all manner of illicit behavior that seemed to be almost commonplace in the halls of our local schools.
At that point, I had never considered homeschooling my kids because I was sure that none of us would survive such an endeavor. But I was terrified as I looked at what influences they would face in the halls of their schools as they got older. For the first time, I thought it would be a good idea to keep them home with me so I could control their learning environment and keep them safe.
I prayed long and hard for direction, and the answer I got was clear and undeniable, bringing peace to my troubled mind: “The world needs your kids and the light they have to offer. I sent them to earth to shine. You and I have both prepared them for this. They are strong and capable and will bring goodness and hope to their schools and the people they will interact with there.”
While homeschooling was not the right path for my family, as much as I wanted it to be, I have nothing but respect for those who pursue it. Each family must make that decision on their own, and it will be different for everybody.
But that day, as an answer to fervent prayer, I realized it was not my job to shelter my kids from our sin-sick world, but to prepare them to stand firm, live faithfully, and shine through the darkness that would surround them. That prospect is daunting at best. Sometimes, I feel like I am encouraging them to swim with the sharks, hoping they will not get eaten alive. There are days when fear creeps into my heart, and I wonder how I can possibly send them back for another day of the madness that is called high school.
But then I hear those comforting words replayed in my mind: “The world needs your kids and the light they have to offer. They can do this.”
So I kiss them goodbye, tell them I love them and trust that they will be alright in the heat of the battle they must fight daily. This fight is their path – their mission – the one I prepare them for every single day by teaching them how to live well and love others. Through it, they are learning what it means to strong. They are learning to recognize the difference between light and darkness based on how each one makes them feel. They are beginning to develop the courage to stand firm in their convictions, even when they must stand alone.
My kids are far from perfect, but they and those of their generation are filled with promise. The world they are growing up in is not always a safe or welcoming place. But we, as their parents and leaders, can help them understand that they were born to lead. We can help them discover the light within themselves and show them through our examples how to hold it up for all the world to see.
One month after the 9/11 attacks, Gordon B. Hinckley said:
Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us.
Yes, there is darkness encircling us. There is an abundance of struggle, pain, and suffering. But there is also light, and light will always be stronger than darkness.
We are light. Our kids are light. More than ever, the world needs us to shine like a beacon of hope.
In the midst of tragedy, may we replace fear with faith, blame with civility, and anger with love. May we remind those in our circles of influence that all is not lost – that God has not forsaken us. There is still goodness overflowing in the hearts of people everywhere, beginning with you and me.
Together, we can refuse to allow fear to govern our lives, choosing instead to light the world, one hopeful day at a time. Who will join me?