I knew something wasn’t right this morning.
Most mornings, we have the TV on in my house turned to the local news. Like a lot of Americans we watch it mostly for the weather and traffic reports. There’s just so much bad news anymore that I tend to unwillingly tune out the majority of it.
This morning, though, I didn’t turn the TV on. I don’t know if part of me wanted peace or if I just forgot. Either way, no news for us this morning.
On the way to work, the horizon was getting pinker and I was feeling good. Seconds later, though, I felt a strong urge to cry. I fought it and was able to swallow it back. I’m characteristically sensitive, so this sudden compulsion to weep wasn’t really that out of the ordinary. I assumed it was the beautiful skyline mixed with some uplifting music and some encouraging thoughts in my head about how the day was going to go.
It didn’t take long once I arrived at the school to figure out that something wasn’t right. It was quiet, quieter than usual, and I could feel some weird kind of tension like something serious had just happened and I had missed it. One of my colleagues stopped me in the hall and her question shook me.
“Did you know that boy who was shot last night?”
My first reaction was Wait… someone was shot last night? She tried to remember his name and stammered some sounds until I cut her off with a proper pronunciation of the name of a student I had last year.
“He’s dead,” she said, eyes wide with shock and concern. I gasped, covered my mouth, felt tears close again and just shook my head.
This was a rough kid. In and out of trouble, he spent more time out on the streets than he did at home or in school. He was the kind of kid that a lot of teachers and administrators counted as a loss. He was also the kind of kid whom some said could drop off the face of the earth and no one would even notice.
Now that kid is dead. I passed many of his peers, their eyes wet and faces red with grief. They noticed. And a few of my colleagues, shocked with grief, they noticed. And I noticed.
I don’t know what else to say, really. A kid is dead. Regardless of his circumstances, regardless of what others may believe or think about his lifestyle, he’s dead and that hurts me. It hurts me that people are still talking about it like it was no surprise, simply because of the lifestyle he was living that put his life at risk.
It’s wrong and it sucks and I can’t help but feel like I failed as his teacher because I couldn’t talk him out of some of the choices he had made. No matter how many people say to me, “You can’t save them all,” I still feel my heart breaking because I wonder if there was something I missed, something I could have done that might have saved this one.
Right now, all I can do is pray. For his family and friends, for students who looked up to him and wanted to be like him. For the wisdom that it takes to see the purpose and reason in something like this. For the courage it takes to ask God the difficult questions, the most challenging being Why?
All I ask is that you do the same.