Like many of you, my wife, Cathy, and I were transfixed by the horrific scenes from Paris over this past weekend. Understandably, each of us responds to such tragedy differently. Some of us want to bury our heads, wish it away, change the channel. Others want to exact revenge on those who would take life so violently. Most of us want to know how we can help, what we can do. As I reflect on those whose lives were taken in Paris and in Beirut, where more than forty died on Friday as a result of two car bombings, I am drawn to a bittersweet sense of sorrow and thankfulness.
I am overcome with sorrow for those whose lives were cut short, and for those who lost a loved one. There is little that compares with the grief experienced when a life ends too soon. Twenty- seven years ago, Cathy and I buried our first son, David, who lived only nine hours. I often find myself thinking about David and the life he did not experience; I know I will think about him the rest of my days. Like many, I grieve both for those who have died and for those forced to say goodbye to a loved one far too soon.
And yet, on the other hand, I am compelled to be thankful in the midst of sorrow. I am thankful to be a part of the Walker community whose first core value is the “belief in the infinite worth and dignity of the individual.” At a time like this, when children have so many questions about such tragic events, it is important for adults to remind them how important life is and how much we must treasure each individual. This is particularly important in a diverse community like that found at Walker. Though we have different backgrounds, come from different cultures, and experience life differently, learning to appreciate our differences is a critical part of our mission.
Life is an amazing journey, filled with exuberant highs and fraught with challenging lows. While it may seem natural to want to shield those we love from that which is difficult, it is neither wise nor healthy. Child Psychologist Michael Thompson, who will speak to our community in March, reminded me this summer that “during a crisis, children want to be with those they love and trust.” Michael would encourage each of us to be present, to listen, to respond thoughtfully, and to encourage young people to reach out for support when they have questions.
Earlier today a friend shared a wonderful message from TV personality Mr. Rogers that speaks directly to us as we walk our children through frightening moments:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”- Fred Rogers.
Mr. Rogers makes an important point – look for the helpers when life is difficult. Please know that everyone at Walker is poised to be a helper for each and every student.