Ever since the news of the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I have been feeling at a loss for words. To think that this is just the next story of a gunman killing students in a school is so upsetting. Our children are so precious to us. They should always feel safe especially when they are in school. School is a place for them to learn and grow, a place for them to learn life skills, and accept challenges; not a place that they should worry and be afraid.
This story is bringing out many debates on gun safety and what our legislators should do to address this challenge. I am fully aware that this is a very complicated, political issue and I want to add my voice to those who say something needs to be done. I have read many stories and articles about the events and I have even read sermons and essays written by Rabbis in synagogues not far from Parkland that included passionate words about their local community and how they will support one another through this tragedy.
Of all the pieces that I read this week, the one that I find most inspiring is the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who have been most affected by his tragedy. I am inspired to see how they have gone to Tallahassee to lobby their state officials on gun safety issues. They have organized walkouts and other protests to bring attention to this issue wherever they can. Because of this tragedy, these High School students needed to face something as mature young adults and the will continue to fight their fight and raise awareness on these issues in the hope that something like this never happens again in any school in the United States.
As a father of High School students myself, I now have an obligation to talk to my own children about safety in their school, about what to do if they ever feel threatened and how to learn from the examples of their peers in Parkland who are passionate about this cause and not afraid to speak out on the issue.
This is a time of great sadness and concern for us as a country. As we prepare today for Shabbat, I encourage us to add a personal prayer to our own Shabbat prayers; prayers for the families of those who were killed or injured; prayers for healing for the community of Parkland, and prayers for peace in our country that hopefully can become a place without violence and hatred, a place where people who need mental health support will be able to receive that help, and a place where our children can feel safe in school, in the community, and at home.
I want to share with you a poem that one of the victims of Parkland wrote and that his father shared with others this week at a memorial gathering. It was written by Alex Schachter and it is titled, "Life is Like a Roller Coaster"
Life is like a roller coaster - it has some ups and downs
Sometimes you can take it slow or very fast
It may be hard to breathe at times but you have to push yourself and keep going
Your bar is your safety - it's like your family and friends
You hold on tight and you don't let go
But sometimes you might throw your hands up
Because your friends and family will always be with you
Just like that bar keeping you safe at all times
It may be too much for you at times -- the twists, the turns, the upside downs
But you get back up, you keep chugging along, eventually it comes to a stop
You won't know when or how but you will know that'll be time to get off
and start anew
Life is like a roller coaster
May it be a quiet, peaceful and joyful Shabbat for all of us.