No automatic alt text available.Yesterday I was in a room full of sixth graders when I got a text from Ray that said, “School shooting at Marshall County High School. At least one fatality.” My heart stopped. I have friends that teach in Marshall County. I have friends that live in Marshall County and their kids are at that school. I have friends at Marshall County that I haven’t talked to in far too long that their kids go to that school.

One of my first thoughts was being thankful that Tye wasn’t a first responder to that scene. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to have my brother around on any given day but this is a scene that would break him. I am praying for the first responders and their families. No one should have to be that hero. This will be with them for the rest of their lives.

I started checking on my friends in every spare second with relief seeing kids marked as safe. It was later in the day when I saw that the fatality Ray told me about was a friend’s niece. There are no words that will roll out of my mouth at a time like this that are comforting. The only thing I can do is pray for peace and some sort of understanding of the unimaginable.

I sat in that room full of sixth graders yesterday watching them. I wondered who was hurting. I watched them interact with their peers. As a substitute teacher I have been in almost every grade level of that school. I just don’t teach in Bria and Jack’s grade. Even in my wonderful school chock full of wonderful people, there are kids that are hurting.

I don’t want a gun control argument here. Save that for another day. What I want to tell you is that there is a heart issue we need to work on. Parents are so busy working to pay for sports, name brand clothes, activities and opportunities we are missing opportunities to know our kids. (I said we.) Kids are mean, even the sweetest of them. I was. They will pick and tease on the weakest child in an effort to be funny, to be liked, to be popular. Students are quiet at their desk because it’s winter and someone might make fun of their dry skin. They are crying at home because they aren’t the fastest runner. Kids are being bullied online and no one is standing up for them at every age and we are missing it. It’s not just kids. If you read comments under anything online it gets nasty fast. Someone hiding behind a computer screen has something horrible to say. Adults are horrible examples of character for our children.

Yesterday I was desperate for information. I was reading through comments. One person claimed that everyone knew something like this would happen and teachers, staff, administrators and parents stuck their heads in the sand and ignored clear warning signs. In another post I read that the shooters mother arrived at the school looking for her son with no idea that he was shooter. She needed her own medical treatment from shock when she heard that it was her son who took the lives of two children, wounded 12 others and caused a total of 19 people to need medical treatment. I don’t know where the truth lies. In my experience it is usually somewhere in the middle. Let me tell you that I have no idea what was going on inside the walls of that school. I know there are great, kind, heroic human beings there. It’s pretty easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and second guess every aspect of their lives. I’m not here to do that.

I’m here to give you a wake up call, myself included. We need to know our kids as much as we love them. We need to know their hearts. Check their phones. Have dinner with them. Talk to them about their days. Know their friends. Know where they are going. Check and make sure they went where they said they were going.

Y’all, I distinctly remember one horrible incident of me being a bully in eighth grade. My parents had no idea. It is something I have regretted since the very second it happened. There were times when my parents, especially my mom knew that either I or my friends had a, let’s just say character flaw. She stepped in immediately every time. Ray has also told me about bad choices he made in high school. It happens and it’s not okay. Kids are desperately clamoring for the next rung on the social ladder. I would love to knock that ladder down. I can’t. I can hope that we teach our kids that the feeling in the pit of their stomach when they treat someone so horribly means that they immediately need to make it right.

There are so many things that I want to say. The main thing is, don’t yell about the guns and ignore the fact that we are losing our children because of their hearts. Don’t yell gun control and ignore the fact that our schedules make us so insanely busy that we don’t know what’s going on in our children’s lives. We won’t fix gun control when there is a level of fear of the other person in this country. Fear, hate, and disrespect are killing us, guns are just the current weapon of choice.

Pray for Marshall. Pray for the victims. Pray for the first responders. Pray for the medical staff and the therapy and the counseling to come. Pray for the shooter. Pray for his family. Pray for our country. Pray for kindness and love to return. Pray for Marshall.