The phone rang. I saw my sister’s face pop up on my cell and so I answered with a smile, ready to settle in for a nice catch-up type of conversation.
“Barb, you need to call the boys to be sure they’re safe. There’s a shooter on the Ohio State campus.” Not exactly the call I’d expected. I could feel the adrenalin immediately kicking in as I quickly hung up to call. You see, both of my sons and their girlfriends attend OSU.
Before I could even dial, my oldest son called me. “We’re safe. We’re all here and we’re safe.” He briefly let me know one of his closest friends had been in class when a fire alarm went off. As the students exited the building, someone driving a car began to plow into the crowd, and then emerged from his vehicle brandishing a knife and a gun. Later, we would learn he had only the knife, but at that early hour the possibility of a large death count loomed.
As he quickly let me go so he could call the rest of the family, I sat there in stunned silence, trying to absorb what seemed like an impossibility. A shooter? On my sons’ college campus? It would seem the craziness of the world’s headlines had managed to land on our front door.
How do you even process that? How do you wrap your head around something that crazy? My heart immediately went out to the students who weren’t locked away safely, and to the families who anxiously waited to hear if their loved ones were okay. We were lucky yesterday. Though there were injuries, there wasn’t a large death count. We wouldn’t be another Columbine, or Umpqua Community College. I cried when I first heard those stories. I didn’t cry yesterday.
There were 23 campus shootings last year, and 15 so far for 2016. I know because I looked it up. While school shootings aren’t something entirely new – the first recorded incidents occurred back in the 1800’s – the volume of them are. Is it the attention brought on by the media? Is it the desensitizing of our humanity by technology and our mostly digital interactions? I bet, like me, you could come up with a long list of possible suspects.
As I searched for answers, I found a familiar scripture:
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them,” (Ephesians 3:1-5).
I remember the first time I read this, ironically when I lived on a college campus myself. It struck me deeply then, and it strikes me deeply now. That IS the world I live in. Yet as sobering as that is, I have to remember Jesus’ message to all of us:
“And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. Similarly, it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house. You are like that illuminating light. Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it,” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Every day, I have the choice to be different. I have the ability to stand up and reach out with
love in the face of hatred, with kindness when others are mean, and with grace and patience in
an angry, impatient world. I have a chance to show a way of living that embraces goodness to
others, and to extend that goodness to myself, even when I don’t deserve it. I have the
opportunity to stand for something bigger than myself, something beautiful and
transformative. I stand for God.
I know this life is short. The Bible describes it as a mist, here today and gone tomorrow. As I
grow, I find I worry less and less about what others think, and focus more and more on
helping others. I may never know when the ugliness in this world will land at my door step,
but I do know who I can be in response.
For Further Thought: What is one way you can let your light shine this week in an affirming
healing way? Make a decision to be that positive influence to those around you and to