The Aftermath of the Florida Shootings: A Generation Empowered for Change
Kathy Hatem is the Director of Communications for Enough Is Enough, a non-profit organization dedicated to Making the Internet Safer for Children and Families
Last week, schools around the country held numerous events to honor the lives of the 17 people killed at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. So often after senseless tragedies that unite our nation in a period of grief and mourning, we often found ourselves asking of the good that can possibly come out of such senseless and evil acts, and how the lives of those lost can be honored so that they did not die in vain.
In the aftermath of the shooting, we’ve witnessed the concern written across the faces of our future generations in the aftermath of the shootings as they asked themselves, “How did we get here?” “Why now? “Why us?” We’ve seen thousands of students take part in a 17-minute walk out in solidarity and remembrance of each of the lives lost. We’ve seen students take to the streets and to the halls of their state legislators demanding action.
As a parent of school-aged children, I am encouraged beyond measure to see students rising up to a level which our nation has not seen in decades. Our children are on a mission to be seen, heard, and understood. They want to feel safe and protected, and receive confirmation from those charged with protecting them that their lives are valued and they matter in this world.
When evil is at the root of such darkness our children see and experience day in and day out, I am reminded that it takes an act of God for them to see the potential for any good that can result from the horrific sights and sounds that embed the minds of our young generation.
Apart from school shootings, our children are witnessing or are personally exposed to: the degrading words of a cyberbully that squashes their spirits; dehumanizing acts depicted in unprecedented amounts and access to free, graphic Internet pornography (whether stumbled upon accidentally or viewed intentionally); or, the sexual exploitation resulting from revenge porn or sexts strewn across social media platforms for all to see.
In the most volatile and challenging of times, it is a wonder that our kids can be so resilient and charged to act. At my child’s school, and at schools across the country, random acts of kindness are being encouraged as they honor the lives lost in the Florida shooting. Students are posting kind notes on the lockers of those they’ve never spoken to prior. They are asking the child who often sits alone to join them for lunch. They are picking the kid who always gets chosen last to join their team at recess.
Our kids are so much powerful then we’ve given them credit for, myself included. When they unite, they can move mountains. When I think of the potential impact everyday kindness efforts can have on cyberbullying, sexual exploitation, and on relationships and friendships in general, I am reminded that just perhaps, this is the good that can come out of such tragedy. With this generation leading the way and demanding better from us all, I don’t doubt for a moment that they will ever allow the lives of the 17 killed to be lost in vain.
**Note: You can help spread kindness and combat the online culture of cyberbullying by generating your own “Random Post of Kindness” or “Sweet Tweet” and sharing it on social media with someone you’d like to encourage!
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