Last week's horrific shootings at the Stoneman Douglas High School, (only a few short miles from HACS) has shaken the very core of our community's foundation; and, has now become what the media is unfortunately and sadly labeling as "society's new normal".
There are those who respond to this tragic event by meeting with politicians and participating in well-orchestrated and strategically posted photo-opts (not to minimize their intentions or efforts); there are others who engage in writing and talking thereby fueling the blame-game fire; there are those who are reaching out to families of dear lost ones, the injured and first responders with love, unswerving support and hugs; and, yet there are others who are crying out to the heavens and beyond for immediate measures to be taken on the local, state and federal levels in order to increase school security, greater mental health awareness and the elimination of assault firearms -- all in the spirit of sincere heartfelt efforts to minimize if not prevent the G-D forbid possibility of these horrendous atrocities from ever happening again.
All of these natural well intended activities and responses are expected and must be supported, But, happening at the same time is a challenge and an imperative which challenges our educational leadership, in ways never before imaginable.
As a senior educator and as a proud General Studies Principal of HACS, I am profoundly concerned about the daunting impact these events have on the current and future psychological/emotional well-being of our precious children.
As parents, it’s just not enough to say that we must protect and shield our children from the gruesome details of these events, when the very details of these events are within earshot of our children. How about the three parents who were talking to one another (during our school's carpool dismissal) about the details of the shooting in front of 4 of their 5-year-old children? What about the parent who insists on playing the radio during carpool, only to once again disregard what our children are hearing? What about the parents (you know who you are) who talk about these events and their gruesome details in the presence of their children at the Shabbos table, in Shul, or at the playground?
My dear friends, the impact of these events on our children are profound! Many of our children, especially the younger ones, are confused, perplexed, frightened and crying out for answers. As responsible mature adults and parents, we must be extremely vigilant and careful to have age-appropriate responses and conversations with our children; we must protect them from the harsh, brash and graphic words, descriptions and images of last week's horrendous surrealist carnage. We must enable our little ones to feel safe, secure, loved and protected. We should never take for granted that a child's feeling or sense of security is happening by itself naturally --- because it isn't ....and it won't.
We must reject the phrase that we are "living in a new normal"! We need to change that phrase and bring back the "old normal" embedded in Jewish values, principles, and ways of life.
If we are a light unto the nations and indeed a holy nation, the conversation begins at home, with our own children.
So, next time we hug our children, tuck them into bed at night, or hug them first thing in the morning......lets remember that our children are the greatest most profoundly cherished gift Hashem can ever give us; and that we must redouble our efforts to monitor our speech, expressions, and sentiments in their presence.
May HaShem bless all of our children with excellent health, mazal, simcha and hatzlacha; and may our children and their families never ever experience the events of last week.
And, may HaShem bless the families of those who perished last week with true comfort, love, strength and resolve.
Our hearts are truly broken.