17 Bullets To The Heart


By the time this is posted much will have been written on the devastating tragedy in Parkland, Florida. As a nation, we experience so much grief, however in our own lives, none more shattering than losing a loved one. How is it that a teenager is prohibited from purchasing a beer, but can buy a weapon that galvanizes them to commit a most unforgivable brutal act? Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been praised for all of the drills a school could have performed which make it all the more discouraging. They trained the faculty and the kids; they did everything they were supposed to do. 

The smoldering rage, the broken hearts, and lives forever changed is heartbreaking. Everyone is frustrated and I believe politicians and decision makers have met their match. The young children and families impacted by this tragedy are calling for action and will accept nothing less. Solutions have proved elusive. I believe this time will be different. I hate it that I am writing “this time,” denoting it is happening again. 

What are thoughts and prayers going to do when someone, a loved one, is gone? They are empty words when yet another act of violence will erupt and create unimaginable pain. We have to stop getting guns in the hands of children. Something has to change. We also have to help those afflicted with mental health that must feel desperately unwanted, needed and unheard, which cracks the situation open like a mirror.

Research shows that relationships we have with others help us manage our moods. Elizabeth Bernstien says, “We function best mentally when we create a village, or portfolio, of supportive people who have varied emotional skills.”

But what happens when someone doesn’t have that village?

It is apparent that in this latest school tragedy, signs were overlooked and people did not speak up. How often have we heard “see something, say something?” We need to make it “ok” for others to do just that. Trust, self-esteem and feeling loved determines so many of our emotions and how we react. Strength of social networks is critical and often overlooked until an emotional event happens that causes us to recalibrate. It is so important for the young adults learning, growing, adapting to an ever-changing world to take stock in their social network and the people they chose as their friends. Their plea is love us and let us know we are loved.

The story of Natalie Hampton, 16 years old who created Sit With Us app warms my heart. She wanted to make sure no one else had to eat lunch alone and created an app to help kids connect with new friends. “Sit With Us was inspired by a miserable experience of being bullied in middle school,” Hampton wrote on her website. “Apart from the verbal taunts and violence, one of the worst things was having to eat lunch alone, and the embarrassment of having others see me eating lunch alone.” I am sure lives are changed with these acts of kindness and inclusion that Natalie is fostering.

In my childhood I was shy and felt inadequate experiencing the painful tragedies from my parental (or lack of) upbringing. A verbally and physically abusive alcoholic-home life swinging wildly between turbulence and calm left me traumatized so much of the time. However this turned itself into the form of a gift as it proved to be a foundation, which gave me strength and courage throughout my life. All of us experience difficult situations and challenges, which can seem insurmountable, but most of us have the resources to reach out for help. If it is not within us, it is with coaches, professionals, educators, spiritual leaders, mentors, friends or loved ones to nurture and lend a helping hand. For many of us, myself included, the childhood challenges have turned into stories of survival.

I am blessed when I reflect on my years as a youth.  I easily could have been a criminal, drug addict, or prostitute seeking attention or acceptance to overcome the neglect, abuse or lack of attention I so desperately looked for and craved. It is not my intention to compare my struggles to these besieged individuals who are struggling with mental illness and what seems like an empty toolbox at their disposal. I had the good fortune to avail myself of the resources that I didn’t really know were there, but I was given the gift of using my brain and my voice, accessing an inner strength and matured at an early age. In this moment I reflect on the gratitude I have for the many that came to my rescue, listened and cared enough to lend a helping hand. Because of them, I believed I could always, somehow, find a way to reinvent myself again.

I hope we can do this for the many that are crying out for help. There is no right or wrong way to react to the Parkland tragedy, but I do believe the right thing to do is to take action. Right now, today, action is the most important and mourning can take place simultaneously.

Overcoming adversity is a phenomenal struggle – it is a heroic, powerful perilous, often decades long endeavor in a tone that, over time, can lead to both ordinary and extraordinary success.  I hope we can take action to make a difference so this unimaginable tragedy will never be repeated.

It is hard not to be inspired reading the MISSION STATEMENT for March for Our Lives created by students across the country to be held on March 24th. Supporters who feel passionate enough about gun violence should contact their local representatives. If public opinion does not demand change, if the American public does not make their voices heard in Congress, nothing will change. We cannot risk another precious life. 

I'd love to hear your ideas for positive change in the comments below. Let's work together to make a difference.