ADAMS: Santa Fe Strong - Showing youth to ‘Love Thy Neighbor’

June 12, 2018

A Santa Fe Strong shirt joins other items at a make shift memorial outside Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe. Photo by James Ramos/Herald.

On May 18, I was pulling into the St. Dominic Chancery parking lot when the radio station announced there was an active shooter situation at Santa Fe High School. No details were given at that time. I said a prayer and headed into the building.

Less than 30 minutes later, we all learned of the tragic fate of eight students and two teachers who would not be coming home that day, and my heart sank. John 11:35 came to my mind: “And Jesus wept.”

I began to shed my own tears for those young people killed, those who went through this experience, their families and our community. That night we saw community leaders, state officials, national leaders, and people from across the nation and world offer their support and prayers for another school and community racked by violence.

We can debate the influence of guns, funding for schools and mental illness on the increase in school shootings, but we also must recognize the detrimental changes in society, especially in the culture of our young people, which had contributed to this society of violence.

Teens today, through social media, television, movies, music and video games, are exposed to a constant barrage of sexual content, violence and situations that challenge our faith’s moral and ethical beliefs. Harassment and bullying have become the norm in most schools, despite a call for zero tolerance. Mental health issues like suicide have been glorified for teens on some television series with revenge as an added twist to inflict more pain on the living.

When Daniel Cardinal DiNardo released his statement as archbishop and president of USCCB, he offered his heartfelt prayers and those of his brother bishops to those who had died, the injured, their families, and the community, but he also called us out to take action.

“Sadly, I must yet again point out the obvious brokenness in our culture and society, such that children who went to school this morning to learn and teachers who went to inspire them will not come home. We as a nation must, here and now, say definitively: no more death! Our Lord is the Lord of life,” he stated.

Where do we go from here? What lessons do we take from Santa Fe to keep our children and schools safe?

As youth, parents, church and community, we can begin to make a difference by following the Gospel messages: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) and “love thy enemies” (Luke 6:27). In today’s society, we have forgotten these messages. If we are truly Christians, we are called to embrace and show kindness and love to one another. How can we make this possible?

Our first action can be prayer, but we can’t stop there. When we pray, we must make sure our prayers have action. As Pope Francis teaches: “A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother — the poor, the sick, those in need of help, a brother in difficulty — is a sterile and incomplete prayer.” (Angelus 7/21/13)

  • Help us to teach our young people to reach out to those who are bullied and may feel alone, isolated, or lost. With the help of my daughter, here are some simple actions youth can do today:
  • Saying a greeting as simple as “Hello, how’s it going?” to those in school who tend to be ignored. A hello can help someone realize they exist and someone at school has acknowledged them in a respectful manner.
  • Sit down with or invite someone who normally eats alone to lunch or sit with them on the bus. You don’t have to talk about anything particular just start a conversation about school, hobbies, etc. I challenged my CCE class to this assignment several years ago and was pleasantly surprised that at least half the class accepted the challenge and some made new friends.
  • Social media is the new bullying platform. Delete those who bully others from your social media accounts. If they don’t have an audience, they tend to stop their behavior.
  • Don’t be a bystander. Stand up and report bullying when you see it. Don’t be a supporter of the bully. Don’t give the bully the power.
  • If you’re aware of a young person at school or church who is hurting or making threats in person or on social media, tell your parents, teacher and youth leader immediately. 

As parents, we too are called to action:

  • Spend time and talk with your child. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out what’s going on at school and with their friends. Know what they are watching and listening to.
  • Know what your child is viewing and saying on their social media! Don’t be afraid to ask for the password. After all, you are most likely paying the phone or Internet bill.
  • Discuss with your child the Gospel values and teachings of the Church. Society today often challenges these teachings. You can help them by talking about what we believe and why. Remember, you are their primary catechists! Don’t hesitate to ask your pastor or youth ministry leader for guidance help with this if you feel lost or have questions.
  • Help your child get involved in groups or organizations where they can meet other youth and develop a social circle of friends they can trust. Your church youth group would be a great start, along with sports, or hobby groups (acting, crafts, comic books, etc).
  • Be involved at school. Get to know your child’s teachers and school administrators. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Most schools have parent access programs via the Internet that can help you keep track of school information and other information affecting your child.

Don’t be afraid to be the parent! You continue to guide them and teach them the difference between right and wrong. It is okay to say no. 

By showing these acts of kindness, we can make a great difference in others’ lives and begin to stop the violence in our schools. 

Randy L. Adams is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization. Abigail Adams is a seventh grader.