The Witness of Teens

My teen was preparing for a speech competition.  Past speeches began with a reflection of what my teen has witnessed.  This time, that reflection became very focused on a particular recent event.

“Six minutes. 17 people killed.” The message was intentionally haunting.  There were teenagers who knew about what had happened at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida before their parents knew.  We had talked about it at home.  What I didn’t know, however, is that social media enabled some of the students to post videos from that day, including a 45 second video that showed up on my teen’s timeline two days later and showed two teenagers, one propped up against the wall, the other lying face down on the ground.  Both surrounded in a pool of blood.  In the background there were screams and cries of the nearby students, as the police escorted them from the building shouting: “Up against the wall! Go, go!”

This was not a scene from movie or a clip from a violent video game.  This was proof of what had actually happened as it was experienced by young people.  The thought of our children being exposed to such violence is heartbreaking.  The world is supposed to be a gentle place.  As parents we chased the monsters from under our children’s beds years ago but the newsfeeds provide reminders that monsters still exist and that being young doesn’t protect us from the violence of the world.

The point of my teen’s speech, however, was not to lament the fear and violence around us but rather to recognise the courage young people have to rise up and speak out for a better world.  It was to highlight those like the young people who are organising the “March for our Lives” and the reality that there are those who are working to build a better world, in own their ways all around us.  It was to remind all who heard it that change can happen as the survivors of Dunblane told the survivors of Parkland

Perhaps this is the gift that we can bring our children – the reality that we don’t need to wait for the world to change, we can be the change we want to see in the world.  Young people have tools in their hands that are more far-reaching than anything we have known to date.  As parents we can help them use these tools in ways that build hope and possibility for today and for the future.  It begins when we realise that our children are not just the future they are the present too and actively seek to nurture the gifts they bring to the conversation.

Thrive! A living manual for families creates space from which we can share our experiences, our heartbreaks and our hopes.  It is a chance for us to come together as families so that together we can build community, together we can be the change we want to see in this world.

Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/