Faces in the Crowd

Every morning I drop my two sons off at elementary school and as we walk and talk about the day ahead, I often scan the faces of the other children arriving at school. The faces often convey joy or happiness, sharing a conversation with a parent or sibling, or the children look exhausted, like they woke up less than 10 minutes earlier. They may also look intensely serious, thinking of a test or project due later that day. It all seems perfectly normal. 

And as I watch these young people going about their morning routine a disturbing thought has pierced my brain lately about the children I see. It’s an uncomfortable thought, at that. 

Will you grow up to be a school shooter?

I hate to admit this. It hurts me to even allow the thought to enter my head. But on this day and in this age that we live, how can I not?

I’ve seen many of these children for each of the past 3 years that we’ve been a part of this school community and I know that the vast, vast majority of these children will grow up to be well-adjusted teens and young people who populate our churches, youth sports teams and recreation centers. They will be happy and successful and be a part of the fabric of our community. But as we watch horrifying scenes of violence play out on school campuses from coast to coast as school shootings show no signs of ebbing, I can’t help thinking that one of these cherubic, ebullient young faces might one day belong to a deadly, deranged killer willing to put the lives of my children at terrible risk. 

I can’t bear to consider it. 

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t believe any of the kids I see will become killers. They are largely from good homes with good parents and strong families. That will sustain them and it will sustain our community.

At this age my sons get along with almost everyone in their class. Sure, there’s a stray child or two who struggles to adapt and fit in, even in elementary school. But as I’ve been around my kids’ classes and their classmates, I see that there is acceptance and no sense of cliques or discrimination based on culture, interest or appearance. It’s refreshing. And It saddens me to know it likely won’t last. 

At some point as these kids grow up, some of the faces I see today will be the faces of kids who feel like outsiders. They will be the victims of bullying or neglect by their former friends and I fear that will make them feel angry, hurt and vengeful for slights both real and perceived. In so many of the cases of deadly school violence that type of pent-up, all-consuming rage drives the killer to take aim at kids he’s often shared a classroom or a locker wall with for years. 

I wish I knew what to do or how to predict which of the young faces I see each morning could someday be capable of such hatred and malevolence. My goal each morning is to try and smile at as many of the children I see as possible. Maybe just a simple, gracious gesture will alter someone’s outlook or make them feel comforted. I want them to know that no matter what is happening at their home or in their heart, there is kindness in the world and there is kindness directed to them. 

Each parent of a school age child sends their kid to school each day with the expectation that they will be in a safe, comfortable learning environment and that they will return home safely each day. I don’t ever want that to change. The parents of hundreds of children learned a different, tragic outcome over the past 20 years as school shootings have become an accepted part of our lives. We cannot allow this to become the norm. But as we watch shooting after shooting and see our leaders impotent to stop it, I fear that the faces of the children I walk past each morning will continue to represent something other to me than a future friend or classmate of my child. They will represent a future threat. 

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The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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