When Words Aren't Enough
I left Huntsville almost a year ago, completely confident in my conviction to finish up my teaching career and work towards my own goal of becoming a writer/editor/publisher/something to do with literature-r. I didn't expect to cry on my last day of school, but I did. Saying goodbye to my kids was the hardest part of deciding to leave. Even on the worst days, they made my job bearable.
Over the weekend, a student who attended the school I taught at was murdered. And since I heard the news, I have not been able to get my thoughts and emotions straight.
These are the facts I know:
James shot a boy and went to jail last year for second degree assault.
James served his time and re-enrolled in school.
The boy he shot saw him waiting in line at a Taco Bell and chose to get revenge.
I'm going to be honest. If I hear any comments that say something like "well he deserved it" or "well he did shoot someone else first.." I might lose my mind. Keep them to yourself, thanks.
For me, the issue doesn't boil down to who shot who first or who deserved what. It comes down to the fact that a 15 year old and a 19 year old had access to guns. That they live in a community and a society where personal honor rises above the value of a human life. That a boy only 9 years younger than me will never reach any of the milestones I did simply because he wasn't given the chance.
I hadn't spoken to James since early 2015 while he was still an 8th grader at my school. I have no personal knowledge of what his life post-prison was like. From what I've heard, he was getting himself back on track. But even if he wasn't, that doesn't make his life any less valuable. It doesn't justify his death at the hands of another human being.
I remember James walking his girlfriend, my student, to class everyday and always shaking my hand or giving me a hug before he went to his own class. I remember his English teacher talking about his natural leadership, how other students often gravitated towards him and how he used that for good in the classroom, how he constantly impressed his teachers with the depth of knowledge he showed of concepts covered in class. I remember his smile, his laugh when he made a joke in the hallway, how he always used "yes sir" and "yes ma'am." These are the things that comprise a person: not their mistakes.
Right now, I want nothing more than to be in my school with my students. I want to help them find a constructive way to process their feelings. I want to be there for them as they experience the multiple layers of grief. I want to show them how literature and writing can help us heal at times when we think healing is impossible. I want to hug them, to cry with them, to laugh with them as they remember a classmate they will never see again.
I want this post to end with some bright conclusion about something I've learned from this experience or some way to justify it. But I don't have it. I know in my mind that God is good, always. But if I'm being completely honest with all of you, I don't feel it at this moment. I feel confused and angry and unsure of how to move forward and do something that might make these feelings lessen.
When you pray tonight, pray for James' family, for my kids, for the community I was lucky to be welcomed into for two years. Pray that they might find peace and comfort, though that seems impossible right now. Pray that when words aren't enough, we'll feel the love of Christ surround us and find the strength to keep moving forward.