Oh my hometown is in turmoil over the recent events involving a young man who was planning to hurt the people of Waseca. I was born and raised in Waseca and my dad was a teacher at the high school for over 25 years. The thought of anyone wanting to cause harm is very personal and real to me.
As I’ve processed the events thus far, I find myself feeling conflicted. On the one hand, I am so mad and scared and sick that our culture has this as a part of our fabric. When Columbine happened, this young man was only 2 and I doubt has any personal recollection of the events of that day. I was a freshman in college and completely horrified. What is disturbing to me as well is that when the news broke about Waseca, I was almost numb to it. I was appalled, but also somewhat accepting that this is how we live now.
As I have talked to my dad and heard his voice and felt comforted by our connection, I also find myself wanting to make a difference somehow. I just can’t accept that fear can trump love. I just won’t. But how?
The men and women who are working hard to keep our community safe should be commended and celebrated! The parents who are working through their fears and helping their young ones process such an event should be comforted. But I think we have to go further. We have to wrap our arms around this young man too. We absolutely can be afraid and disgusted! We may feel overwhelmed with our need for revenge. That is an option. We are justified in our reactions, absolutely! But it won’t get us to the result that we desire. It won’t invoke change. It just won’t.
My desire is to live in a world where those who make poor choices are seen as needing our guidance, our love, our compassion.
We have to acknowledge that this event did not happen in a bubble. We are all connected. It’s a cultural norm to see people killed, raped, tossed aside. Just turn on the TV, watch the news, or check out the video game selection our kiddos are playing. It’s not uncommon to see someone murdered every single day in the name of “entertainment.” When we focus on “anti-bullying” we are in fact talking about the very thing we want to stop. We need to start the conversation about respect. Pro-respect. Pro-compassion. Pro-peace. Pro-tolerance if nothing else. But being “anti” anything only keeps the conversation going about exactly what we don’t want. Choose what you want and focus on that! I’m choosing love. If for nothing else than self-preservation.
People who love themselves don’t try to hurt other people. The way we are in the world matters. Just think about the reach of those young men at Columbine. Fifteen years later their actions have come to our home. It’s no longer somebody else. What if, our good actions have that same reach?! It may not make the news, and probably won’t, but it still matters!
My challenge during this time is to cultivate so much love out of this opportunity. What if each of us with ties to Waseca wrote a letter to John LaDue telling him that we don’t condone his actions, but we believe that his capacity for good must be even greater than his capacity for destruction? What if we held his family in prayer rather than judgment? What if we did the smallest acts of kindness to complete strangers and, while not knowing the ripple effect, did them anyway. What if we taught our kiddos that those who act in violent ways need our compassion the most?
My dad is now retired, but still substitute teaches often at the high school. In talking with him today he shared that he has been inundated with emails and phone calls from family and friends. I love that. It serves as a reminder that there is always, always light within darkness. Please, please shine your lights now. And for crying out loud, turn off the media!
Heidi (Hammond) Metro, Class of 98