Look for the Helpers and Have the Conversations You Also Don’t Have Answers For
I was in middle school when two students brought guns into Columbine High School and committed mass murder of their students, teachers, peers. I remember coming home from school on the bus, being by myself in the house, and watching the news. I remember what happened consuming my thoughts for weeks to come.
I was in high school when a father and his son shot people in the DC metro area as they were pumping gas, walking out of grocery stores, or coming out of restaurants. I remember being told by my mom that if the car needed gas not to fill it up, but to let my father do it. I remember being told to sprint through the parking lot into the grocery store. I remember being scared of white vans. I remember having my whole life turned upside down by the actions of one man.
As a student, as a young adult, and as an emerging adult navigating a scary world, I have found and continue to find peace and hope in the church, in God, and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I found adults who would talk with me and help me process what was going on. I sang hymns and songs about God being faithful in the face of fear, uncertainty, and death. And I heard the angels voice in Scripture saying “Fear not!”
All too often our students are dealing with the same things I was forced to deal with. As parents, as church leaders, as Christians who care about children and youth we want to help our young people navigate tragedy. We want to help them process what they are seeing on tv, on Facebook, on the internet. We want to help them have a healthy and realistic attitude towards the world, one that’s neither fatalistic or naïve. And perhaps most of all, we want to help our young people see that God is at work in the world, in their lives, even when we see the catastrophic results of our human brokenness.
Wanting to provide resources for you in helping our young people process tragedy, I reached out to our Family and Youth Coordinator Brenda Amodea. She passed along a very helpful article from the Fuller Youth Institute that we have printed below. She also passed along these three thoughts that come from Brene’ Brown’s newest book that is about the polarized, fear-filled world we now live in.
- Prayer and civic action are not mutually exclusive.
- Step away from social media coverage and toward real people for support, action, conversation, and being with each other in collective pain. Keep informed, but don’t stay glued. Our secondary trauma will not make us better helpers-it shuts us down and sends us into self-protection and blame-finding.
- Adding this one for our kids: All we can do is acknowledge the pain and fear, create space to talk about what’s happening in an age-appropriate way, and own our own vulnerability and uncertainty. It’s also important to put down some guidelines for watching the news and talking about it. We want them to ask us and depend on our answers, not those of their peers. And, of course, love them as hard as we can.
Finally Brenda added that in times of tragedy we should look for the helpers. There are always people helping, always people reaching out, people running into danger on behalf of other people. They remind us that there is goodness within us, that God is not done with us, and that hope is not silly or naïve. Look for the helpers because this is where bravery wins out over fear.
We pray for you. We pray for your family. We pray for peace and love to abound in our communities. And we pray for wisdom and guidance for all of us as we seek to make sense of the world we live in, have faith in the midst of tragedy, and raise and nurture young people in trying and scary seasons.
Here are the next-step resources from the Fuller Youth Institute:
Helping young people process Las Vegas
Chances are good that the young people in your life will pose questions for which you don’t have answers. Here’s a useful response to keep handy: “I don’t know, but…” There are a number of ways to access the power of this question to hold a safe space with a teenager: