Over the last two weeks our school’s flags have been at half mast most days. First in honor of the eight lives lost in the Atlanta shootings, and now in honor of the 10 lives lost in Boulder, CO. My heart sinks every time we learn news of more lives lost, futures cut short, and fear throughout communities as we try to make sense of senseless violence. It doesn’t make sense. And it never will. And it never should.
Last week when I learned about the shooting in Boulder, I immediately thought of my four former students who live there now. They are safe, but in that moment of panic, when my whole body constricted as I searched the news to learn more and confirm that they were not among the 10 victims at the King Soopers grocery store, I was struck by how familiar this feeling has become: as we have mourned the lives lost in Atlanta and Boulder; as we have honored the lives of the more than half million Americans who have died from the pandemic; and as we grieve lives lost to violence right here, in our city of Indianapolis. Last week, looking at our school’s lowered flags and thinking about those who have been lost in communities across the country, I thought of the millions of people who have been impacted this last year through the death of a loved one, and the collective toll on our country.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what we need for ourselves or our children in the midst of so much loss. As a parent, I was glad to have a little time and space to process my own thoughts and emotions before speaking with my two sons. A conversation with an eight-year-old usually looks very different from a conversation with a 14-year-old, and I try to pay attention to what they pay attention to when I’m searching for a developmentally appropriate way to share hard news. And this morning, I found my opening: my son Owen grew excited when he saw that inaugural poet Amanda Gorman was going to be interviewed on the CBS morning news. We watched the interview together, and Ms. Gorman spoke about how she approaches her writing “with honesty and hope.”
Honesty and hope. This message, which Ms. Gorman captured so beautifully in her inaugural poem, reflects the way so many of us have made it through the last year: by having honest conversations in the midst of heartbreaking events, all the while remaining steadfast in our hope for a better future. As we heard Ms. Gorman recite on January 20th:
I’ll be honest and factual
as I talk to my children about this most recent tragic event. I will listen to their questions, and what they have to say. And I will be reading this poem again, together with my sons, as a way to stay grounded in honesty and hope.
I wish you and your family peace, love, and hope in the days ahead.
Sherri C. Helvie, Ph.D.
Head of SchoolClick here
to read my last post, "The Tragedy in Atlanta"