Yesterday, I drove my son Jacob to Pre-K at 9:55 a.m., and on our way we drove through the neighborhood streets surrounding our local high school.
As we got closer on the narrow city streets, we were dodging high school walkers (this was normal); we were avoiding student car parkers (this was normal); we were wondering if some kids were ditching class as they walked away from the building (this was normal).
As we got closer, we noticed masses of students and teachers huddled around the outside of the building (this wasn’t normal).
We saw students encircling parts of the building and holding hands (this wasn’t normal).
We saw them holding up pictures commemorating dead students (this wasn’t normal).
I realized it was 10 a.m., and students across America were walking out to protest gun violence in America’s schools.
This has become normal.
It had been a crazy morning: me trying to respond to work emails and prepare for preaching Lenten service at church. Josh, my 2-year-old, pulling Pop Tarts out of the cupboard and opening them himself, his newest trick to cover the house in crumbs.
Jacob, my 5-year-old, incensed that we didn’t have any condiments to bring for the food drive today.
Everything felt like it was speeding ahead too fast; a familiar feeling in the life of a mom of little ones in 2018 America: never enough time, never enough cuddles, never enough enough.
As we drove past the high school, I slowed down next to those kids holding hands around their school. Time seemed to stop. I felt the tears welling up.
My own high school experience. The Columbine school shooting when I was 14 years old: an aberration, an uncertainty — only to become routine for high schoolers of today, who just one month ago witnessed Parkland, Fla., become the latest in the ghoulish list of murdered promise.
“Mom, what are those high schoolers doing?” Jake asked me.
I sniffed. Be strong. Don’t rattle him.
“They’re holding hands to remember people who were killed in school shootings.”
I sensed Jake’s brain whirring. He’s one of those kids where his thoughts are sometimes too mature for his emotional ability to process them. He doesn’t miss a beat, but that’s not always a good thing.
He’s only 5, after all.
I bit back the tears again as I saw a young girl’s face on a poster. Too young to die.
“Mom am I gonna die?” Jake asked.
“Mom why do kids do that? Why do they shoot other kids?”
“Mom they’re just DUMB kids. Why do they bring guns to school? Why?”
“They’re gonna hurt people.”
“Is someone gonna bring a gun to my school?”
“Am I gonna die?”
And perhaps the most heartbreaking …
“I don’t want to go to high school.”
This from a kid who has never been able to wait to grow up. Who hung out with middle schoolers at church in California. Who watches Mr. Ed with his grandpa. Who started listening to chapter books for bedtime stories at age 5.
He started to raise his voice into a slight wail, biting back tears of his own.
“I don’t want to go to high school.”
I reassured him that it hadn’t happened here, in Minneapolis.
Not yet at least.
Though it could happen today, or any day, at his elementary school or at the high school or even at my church.
Despite my assurances, he knew it deep down.
It could happen to him.
And this, the most crushing of all cries of kids in America in 2018: He was afraid to grow up here.
Tonight at church we’re studying John 10, where Jesus reassures his disciples before his death that he is the Good Shepherd, and the Good Shepherd cares for his sheep.
Even, Jesus says – he will lay down his life for his sheep.
I wonder, how many children will continue to lay down their lives for the cowardly adult sheep of America?
And where is our Good Shepherd?
This article was adapted from Angela’s new blog.