By MARY HOOD HART
This morning I watched my 16-year-old daughter, my firstborn, drive off to school alone for the first time. She was all smiles, thrilled with the independence a driver’s license provides. Leaving the cul de sac, she honked the horn in farewell, something her father does every time he leaves his parents’ home after we’ve visited them. It is a common scene: parents standing in the doorway, waving goodbye to children as they venture into the world — to school, to work, even, once they reach adulthood, to their own homes.
This is also the morning after the school shooting — the massacre — in Littleton, Colo. It is hard to reconcile the bloodshed there with this beautiful spring weather, with my daughter’s face beaming from behind the steering wheel as I watch her leave our driveway, off to her own high school, a place I couldn’t imagine as the scene of carnage like that which occurred in Littleton.
I’ve long anticipated that the day Katie received her driver’s license would be a poignant one for me. Even when that day seemed distant, imagining her newfound independence as a 16-year-old driver, I knew that my happiness for her achieving this milestone would be tinged with anxiety for her safety, with sadness that I am nudged even more to the periphery of her life. Yet, just a few years ago, I never could have anticipated that her arrival at this teen-age rite of passage would have occurred at a time when violence like that in Littleton was possible within a high school setting, among members of her generation, among American teens considered her peers.
To say that my daughter is reaching adulthood in a frightening time, a time in which evil appears to flourish, does not seem an overstatement in light of this tragedy. Although violence like this is rare, the fact that it exists at all influences our perception of society and our roles in it. How will my daughter view the world, now that she knows such horror has occurred on a high school campus, a place so familiar in her experience? How can I entrust my daughter to a culture capable of breeding such violence and hate? What have we adults done — or failed to do — to allow society to deteriorate to the state that such an atrocity could befall any of our children, on any school campus, anywhere?
Sometimes the thought of my daughter, and her friends, bright, good-hearted, vital young people, reaching adulthood in a society inhabited by other young people capable of violence like this is enough to cause me to despair. While I have always tried to remain optimistic about human nature, always tried to believe that most people are good, certain events, and this massacre is one, make me shudder at the evil humanity is capable of embracing. In the face of such evil, it seems all the more critical that our children’s innocence, their goodness, be protected and preserved.
If anything good can come from the horror of events like the massacre in Littleton, it could be a renewed commitment on the part of good people — parents, grandparents, teachers, and teens — to reject violence, to seek peace within our homes, our schools, our communities, our country, our world. As Christians, children of light, we should do all within our power to illuminate evil, however it manifests itself among us. And we must acknowledge our unique commission to build God’s kingdom on earth even in the midst of such horrific events.
To do otherwise is to admit defeat, to surrender to the world’s darkness. As parents, we can’t give up on this society. We have too much invested in it. That investment consists of our children, who deserve the right to go to school, to grow to adulthood, without fear of being slaughtered. And we must avoid isolating ourselves, burrowing into tunnels of comfort and materialism that lull us into believing we have a responsibility to no one but ourselves. Indeed, the contrary is true. As Christians, we are invested with the responsibility to love and serve one another, and, even through the most disheartening times and events, it remains our duty to fulfill God’s plan.
Mary Hood Hart lives in Sunset Beach, N.C., with her husband, Jim, and four children, ages 8 to 16.