Last week another tragedy hit our country and shook me. It shook a lot of people. I dove into the news coverage, afraid after 24 hours it would get buried under other less than important stories.
But something extraordinary happened.
Teens who were experiencing all the emotions that come with such a horrific event, were speaking with confidence, clarity and grace.
I remember when Columbine happened. I was in 8th grade. The most significant event I remember prior to that was the Oklahoma City bombing. But now I was a teen and individuals just a few years older than me were dying in their school. It was scary and something hard to grasp.
Today’s high schoolers were born into a post 9/11 world. There definition of hope is much different than the one for those of us who remember a much simpler time.
In their young lives they have experienced mass shootings in every place they go: schools, malls, movie theaters, concerts and church.
The drills they do in school now include what to do if there is an active shooter. Can you imagine what must go through the mind of a child when they do this drill?
I recently saw a tweet from a parent whose daughter asked her mom if she could get new shoes. She had flashing lights on her shoes and she was afraid she would be seen if there was ever a gunman in her school. She is 8 years old.
We’ve taken away the innocence of childhood with the conversations that are required just so our children can be educated.
The last few days, my definition of hope has changed. I have seen it through the eyes, words and will of teenagers. And not just the ones from Parkland. A neighboring high school had a protest. Teens across the country spent their President Day’s holiday organizing and finding ways to be heard.
I’m not hearing from the parents of these kids, because they understand that their kids can speak for themselves and what they have to say matters. Reporters are taking them seriously and treating them with respect.
This new generation has often been called Gen Z. Someone shared a sentiment recently: A common key board shortcut is Ctrl+Z. This command undoes an error.
Perhaps these kids are part of Generation Undo. No one is perfect, but there’s a lot of harm that has been done. No one person or generation is to be blamed, but the reality is that change needs to happen. Their hope is that good can be done by undoing that which has caused so much harm.
For those of us who are older, it’s so important to build up and encourage the generations that come after us. They aren’t just the future, they matter right now. What they experience today shapes them for how they will impact the future. Working together gets us a lot further than competing voices trying to speak above one another.
Everyone deals with grief differently and it’s not our job to tell someone how they should respond. I’ve seen the whole spectrum of emotions and they are all valid, whether we agree or not.
Unspeakable tragedy has a voice. Generation Z is already leading the charge to speak up for those who can no longer speak for themselves.
Let’s listen. We are never done with learning, especially when those younger than us are having experiences we can’t relate to.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV