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Be intentional . . .

August 30, 2018

As an educator, Back-to-School is always a time of chaos and bundles of nerves and anticipation of all the hopes and dreams I have for each and every one of the scholars entrusted to my care.  Last week was no exception, but Tuesday morning felt like my whole world was spinning out of control.  Fairly early in the day, a student alerted me to the national news sweeping the nation – the body of the sweet Iowa student missing for more than month had been found.  Later in the day as more details unfolded, my whole body went numb for the Tibbetts family because I know first-hand, beyond the shock of traumatic grief, the political firestorm that was about to fall into their laps.

One sweet friend somehow knew my anguish because this was her text message early that afternoon.

Thought of you after the Iowa news today.  I know this hits home for you.

How did she know that every fiber of my being wanted to pile into the old trusty minivan and drive to Iowa to simply hug Mollie’s family and to tell them that they will get through all of this – this crazy new world of grief and being stuck in the middle of people’s agendas? I knew they would have to communicate in the cacophony of noise that she was a beloved daughter, sister, and friend who meant the world to them.

I know because we live through it.

The bus crash ten years ago, caused by a woman in this country illegally, that took the life of our son, Reed, and three other precious friends, while injuring 14 others has lingering effects. As much as some people want me to say, lived, as in you lived through it, our children still face in the very real and in the present tense damage to their bodies and will do so for the rest of their lives.  Even though the intensity of grief lessens with time, its tentacles still sneak up in some cosmic wrestling match that never ends and chokes us every now and again.  You close on houses and business deals, but never on your children. We have chosen to not allow grief to be our identity, but even in that powerful choice, the aftermath of grief is long reaching. 

We chose to live lives honoring our son’s and brother’s memory. Yet, when your child dies and that death is directly linked to a hot button, highly politicized issue the octopod limbs of grief sneak in with stranglehold strength when news feeds and social media posts, arguing both sides of the political aisles, flood every corner of our world.

I get it. People are passionate about their point of view, but you want to know how much help your vehement spewing commentary of your beliefs helps the grieving family.

NONE. Not one bit. Not at all.  Zero percent.

In the intensive care unit where we were helping our other son fight to live, it took 3 days before we knew any details of the bus crash or information about the woman who killed and injured our children.  Her immigration status did not change one iota of the reality of the nightmare we were living, then or now, but learning that social media was sporting lovely posts calling us racists after her arrest only added salt to our very deep and personal wounds. I have chosen to forgive our offender, but I will be honest and say that I bristle (and sometimes with alarming shock) when I see people I love posting about illegal immigration as if it is a black and white issue.

It is not.

Yet in that spectrum of gray, the one thing it is definitely not is a rallying cry following the death of a beloved son or daughter.

Our children were so much more than the circumstances of their deaths, and using their deaths to push forward a political agenda diminishes the shining lights they were in the world.  Stop using their deaths as exclamation points in your commentaries.

It is wrong.  It is hurtful. Most importantly, it does nothing to help grieving families.

I understand being passionate.  I understand that a death of a child always leaves a family and the surrounding community mourning the loss of today, but also of the possibilities of all the tomorrows.  I also profoundly understand the compelling need to want to do something – anything – that will let the world know we acknowledge the pain of that loss.

I have never witnessed a changed heart due to a heated conversation on social media. All I have ever seen is the creation of brokenness within relationships and a general malaise with the spreading of mistrust.  Instead of using our pain and our shock to share our beliefs furthering division, let’s remember that the Reed Stevens and Mollie Tibbetts of the world were real people with real families who will miss them always.

If your soul is whispering or even YELLING – you have do or say something, I have a suggestion that might be much more powerful than non-productive argument.  All of the children I know in these highly publicized stories were once students.  If you are compelled to action, then why not considering honoring their lives by changing the lives of others.

Right now, millions of children have gone back to school and others will be heading back next week.  Why not consider adopting a classroom or teacher and finding out what you could do to help those children succeed?  Instead of spreading discord, be the person who shows up to love.  If you can’t give financially, then give of your time.  Volunteer to read to a child or classroom.  Use the skills you have to contribute to another student’s future. Show up at lunch and simply sit with children and listen to their precious conversations.  Listen to their stories.  Listen to their dreams. I imagine none of them will say I want to grow up and spread negativity in the world and I want my ideas to hurt others, especially those who are grieving.

SD700 IS 001-Priceless picture

Be present. Be intentional. Show these students there are diverse ways to love even through our differences.

That’s the world, my son, Reed, believed in and contributed to EVERY DAY of his brief 12 years of life.

And, isn’t that the world we should all strive to create? 






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