Without judgment, I offer two personal stories from this past week. They occurred within a day of each other.
First story: At lunch–during a discussion of guns, death and violence–a colleague described his neighbor’s reaction to the death of Sandy Hook students and teachers, as well as to the possibility of additional regulation of guns and ammunition. According to the colleague’s reasonable, and in my judgment sympathetic, report, his neighbor already owned an AR-15, and since the Sandy Hook deaths has purchased several more. When asked why he had purchased these additional guns, the neighbor responded that he wanted to be ready when they, the government, came to his house.
Second story: At our high school’s weekly chapel service, two senior boys played a concert to benefit the Youth and Family Services of Newtown, Connecticut. The seniors themselves requested the opportunity, chose the music and provided the commentary between pieces. During their performance, which they entitled “Reflection and Outreach,” they explained that it can be hard to find words at such times, and that music can express emotions in these situations. When I asked one of the boys about why they asked to do this concert, he said that the feelings expressed in the music could serve as one way to empathize with the Sandy Hook community.
To me, these two stories represent significantly different ways of seeing the present and future worlds. I am also reminded of the two essential questions that guide my work with high school sophomore classes: Who am I? What are my primary responsibilities to myself and to the communities in which I live? Most of our reading and writing focus on a student’s, character’s or author’s answer to these two questions. I wonder how the neighbor and senior boys would answer these questions. And I wonder what those answers mean for us–today and tomorrow? Finally, I wonder how my responses to the colleague and the students defines my answer to these essential questions.