When a community experiences yet another tragedy perhaps you struggle as I do to understand a sadness and pain even with no direct connection to those dealing with a devastating loss or to those realizing one of their own is responsible. We cry for them not knowing what they need. Even if we did know we realize we might not be able to provide it.
In light of recent events, my heart struggles to find ways to be prepared for the unimaginable yet live life with joy, hope, dreams and pass security on to our nation’s youth. I see posts about when to run, when to crouch, when to hide, about turning backpacks around so books serve as shields. Visibly armed security personnel, appropriately trained, patrol a slough of public institutions in our country. It is beginning to seem absurd that it is not common practice at our schools.
There is a movie of memories replaying in my heart at the moment. As I drove off to grad school in an old Plymouth I bought from my grandpa, there was that never-altered lecture one more time from Dad that always ended with the admonition not to stop and help anyone. I knew he didn’t always practice what he preached to me. I was old enough to understand why.
So I told my parents of the times a stranger would go out of the way to help me but I didn’t tell them of the times I did the same. Things don’t always go as planned and they would worry more. They were humble and kind so I was raised that way. More memories surface of lessons preached to my son. There was a tug on my heart as I realized that there is always one more time that I remind him to be careful. One more time I hear him remind me that he is a grown man now.
Tim McGraw’s rendition of “Humble and Kind” was released in January of 2016. It’s a song with a touching message accentuated by a vivid video. In the backstory of the recording McGraw shares that he had a hard time with it in the studio. He could hardly get through a line without crying as he faced sending a daughter off to college. The words hit home.
Now we might worry now about sending our kids off to schools down the street. Our nation had its fair share of potential tragedies when I was in school in St.Louis in the 50’s and ’60’s, but I don’t recall feeling fear and dread in my classrooms. We had scary tornado and fire drills, not drills for intruders and lockdowns. Had I been subjected to what our kids are these days – even if it’s not in their own schools and neighborhoods, they are bombarded with instant news of horror in other schools and neighborhoods – I can’t say how much learning might have gone on, or how I might have coped. I do know I failed miserably in my thirty-plus years in a classroom at preparing my students for the world as it is now. I didn’t see this coming.
Lori McKenna is the songwriter of the lyrics to “Humble and Kind.” She sang them on the stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry prefacing it with the light-hearted comment that maybe her kids would be listening. Mom Lori standing alone on a stage singing the words she wrote with her kids in mind is as powerful a performance as is Dad McGraw singing her lyrics with his own children ever-present in his mind.
What a paradox to strive to raise a generation to be humble and kind in a world that isn’t. We need a tipping point. The increase in disconnection and the escalating disregard for life are complex issues we can’t pin to a single cause in our eroding society or continue to ignore.