"Mom, do we lower the flag each time a person dies?" said an eight-year-old child whom I'd baptized some years earlier. We 15 students, parents, and community friends stood around the flagpole of a local elementary school for 17 minutes on Tuesday morning, organized by Jamie Calloway-Hanauer. We were observing one minute for each person killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine's Day of this year. The children were intent on playing around with each other, and yet they talked candidly about death in ways that I often wish adults would. They expressed their sadness that someone was "so upset that he killed 14 kids and three coaches." One child said the spirit of the 17 was in the breeze, but questioned why it "had to be so cold?" At the end they all hugged, falling down and laughing.
Our children know much about death and guns - more than perhaps we expect they do. It made me sad that they know all of this. Yet as I left the place, I reflected on how this honest understanding of the relationship between death and guns by even our elementary school students holds out a hope for real change. If they understand the connection, as they grow and begin to take responsibility, they can demand what current generations have been unable to secure for years -- as the 7,000 shoe memorial outside of the Capitol viscerally reminds us.
Of course this does not mean that we do not act now, heaping upon our children our own responsibilities. But it means that our household investment in raising our children well, our church's deep investment in Christian Education, and our community work on the support of children's growth, must remain primary. As Proverbs reminds us, "Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray." And as we all know, good training comes from setting good examples. I pray that we continue to set those good examples.