Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Beating Swords Into Plowshares, Reflection on the Virginia Tech Massacre

These are our students today getting off the busses, ready for a new day of learning with their peers and teachers; a scene repeated one hundred and eighty days or so across America from September until June. Our school is public, open to all children regardless of race, religion, economic status,ability or disability. It is where I was first "called" to ministry, to educate and serve these children, their parents, this staff back in the early seventies. In many ways my job is still very much the same, but over the years, subtle changes have occured in the children and their families, our families, America's families. Families have become disconnected from one another, caught up in obits around personal interest. One of the ways people become engaged with one another, I was told at a seminar is through service learning. The science teacher and I engaged our students in an Earth Force Project collaboratively to create a place of beauty on the school grounds that could become an outdoor classroom. We began to build a garden. A month later, almost exactly nine years to the day of the Virginia Tech tragedy, our science teacher was shot and killed and others wounded at our school spring dance.
Our shooter like the one at Virginia Tech was also a student and described as a "loner". At school today we did not speak of todays news. It is still too painful to speak of things that remind us of this past, but our garden is blooming. Our children are tend it lovingly and take pride in each new revelation of nature. Right now, it's the Red Emperor Tulips that are beginning to greet us, soon it will be the irises and the peonies. Beauty for ashes in the garden, we tend and I tell each new crop of fifth grade caretakers the garden story. Why it's important to care about each other and to tell them so. Why it's important to say and do kind things and so on.

We comfort with the comfort by which we were comforted. Our faculty received many gifts of grace, love and peace from our community and the nation at the time. Letters of condolence, cards, churches even brought snacks to the school when we came back to the building after the funeral. It helped us stay together, support one another and grieve. The swords of violence that tore the innocence of our school community apart has been beaten into a plowshare. I pray for the students, faculty, staff and families of Virginia Tech that they would find beauty for ashes in the midst of this tragedy. That they would receive comfort and peace.