Recognizing Who We Are Today! (a draft)

We experienced a tragedy in (our community) last week. We lost a young man as the result of a traffic accident. He touched many hearts. The city, the district, the students were all impacted by the loss of (student), a student known by many for his affectionate and charming persona, an infectious personality. I listened to a couple of students the night of the tragedy talk about the immediacy, how quickly a life is taken, that we cannot quite comprehend the confusion such a loss leaves us when just hours before they were standing right next to the young man, full of life. We are all surely saddened by tragedy, yet, we are also enlightened by the way the students rallied around the celebration of this young man’s short life. In an intrigue, this experience speaks to an aspect of the beauty of our lives in (our community) as we recognize the diverse nature of our community.

On Friday, as the news flooded social media the night before, the students all wore white to honor the young man. I was amazed to look around the school and see nearly 90% of the student body dressed in white. The sight provided a welcome contrast to the negative image our district has attained in recent months. Here’s why.

What happened inside our school buildings on Friday mattered to the students, they were the ones being represented and cared for, and they responded with more unity than I have seen in my career as a teacher. I watched a school that put aside curriculum for the day, and reasoned with the reality of the human condition in every step of the way. In mid-day, there was a service, known as a ‘smudge’ provided by the young man’s family – his Native American heritage celebrated – and in attendance easily hundreds of students witnessed a cultural phenomena with open arms and respectful intrigue.

I said to a friend of mine late Thursday night, that (young man’s) loss would be a unifying force for allowing our students to recognize life as a whole rather than an individual need for survival. I watched kids from every walk of life hug one other, speak kindly to each other, and embrace grieving in a thoughtful and beautiful manner. (young man’s) death was responsible for that coming together of a school district.

Even more intriguing, I attended a football game that night, a ‘Friday night lights’ experience during which both the visitors and the home team wore white to symbolize (our community) tragic loss. It was remarkable to watch the unification of two school’s students who all recognized together the beauty of life and the tragedy of loss. But together they created and expressed a natural silver lining. Ironically, several schools around the region also showed unity and compassion by wearing white in a symbolic gesture of support. My boss said to me today, ‘It’s a small world’ when I shared my delight in the actions of many.

This weekend we celebrate the loss of a beautiful young man, one that I did not know personally, but understood to have touched the lives of many, including many students in the drama program, for which I am an advisor. The lesson learned from this weekend’s start of the healing process, is that we as a district do embrace the beauty of a unique population of student body that do and can believe in one another if given the proper resources. We as a community need to do our part in assuring our students that we can go forward together.

I think (young man) is imagining how special our world is given his new perspective, and his engaging smile is suggestive of our need to recognize his gift and not forget the message his role in the circle of life provides us all.

*names withheld to respect the student and family.

While Sitting Alone

The picture window,

my guide to the world around me,

could be a rainy day,

I watch the slick survival of a city,

might now sunshine cast shadows,

while domesticated bird houses

offer a gallery,

for my child-like eyes,

to always wonder why.

 

Soft fabric of the green sitting chair,

matched the other nearby,

always vacant to my stare,

yet, I could rely upon its permanence,

never to leave me,

always after eyes searching the world,

step back in to my shelter,

and there the matching green …

There’s always something

reassuring

about the static in life.

 

I once was a young,

who only felt tears when

necessary rites of passage,

would slow my way.

Eventually I’d find windows

to imagine, take me away

to different places,

my mind a brilliant coaster,

never letting me stay in one place

forever too long.

 

Sitting differently today,

the furniture rearranged,

wishing all those moments

I wanted to get away,

would somehow return,

I could then seen them both,

sitting with smiles,

the usual way,

because back then,

I never felt that breeze.

 

The picture window,

still remains,

a different set of eyes,

glancing through their destiny,

wondering about the other side,

where the glass is pummeled

by the occasional stray bird

trying to find their way,

child reaches,

and wings drift away.

 

I remember one afternoon,

listening to the rain,

wanting everything

to always stay the same.

In High School We Believed

Everything

mattered, occurred, became known,

whether we wanted notoriety

or a simple life as a student.

 

Remember walking the halls,

feeling the eyes,

wondering about thinking

that could expose your own state of mind.

 

I remember they told me otherwise,

so I trusted their ideal,

and when the walls caved in

they were nowhere to be found.

 

I remember the rumors,

she was so beautiful,

carried such a wonderful spirit,

no one would understand the hate in mirrors.

 

In high school, we lived many different lives,

some would last a week,

others perhaps a couple of days,

it only mattered if we could find definition.

 

When the word arrived in our mind,

how could we possibly imagine

telling anyone, especially those eyes we were

already afraid of, deathly afraid of knowing.

 

While the world seemed different outside,

internal walls protected our sanity

only when we accepted ourselves in earnest,

if not, we relied upon a mask.

 

Though the transparency, when noticed,

became the final reckoning, we did understand.

always just a little late …

A Silent Decision

Sat in a room tonight, listened to the wonder,

of the world we live in today.

Hard topics, sad outcomes, hopeful realities,

the horrific turmoil in the lives of young women and boys.

 

Earlier this afternoon, I took a student apart,

confronting their need to focus on their academics,

made sure the rest of the classroom knew I was serious,

held out until the very last minute,

felt justified until minutes later,

I realized she suffered from social anxiety & depression.

Who’s the tough guy now?

 

See though these are two seemingly different stories,

they’re really the same,

each one a product of the other,

the initial motives for throwing a young person’s life away,

and the later the end result,

decides just why should we try anymore.

 

Any more and we’ll fall apart and cry,

yet so often we are told not to respond that way,

too many times, we forget the others,

end up in the trapping of silent decision.

When I Was 17

I remember not wanting to be around,

afraid of my own shadow,

playing anxiety games with my friends,

see who could cover their shadow,

who might understand the freedom

the real world,

the possibility that exists beyond our dreams.

~

I remember sleepless nights with an amphetamine,

the coursing through my veins attitude,

we could last for hours on our own,

no signs of empathy needed,

we were powerful with a dash of freedom

in a zigzag rolled with the finest weed.

We were always able to finally fool ourselves.

~

I remember wanting to escape,

hoping this next moment might be my freedom,

the simple reality of an hour,

could I forget myself long enough to remember

where it was I wished to be,

when while a slow reality might creep in,

I could still be 17.

~

I remember when it was possible to dream,

imagine a world where my life seemed real,

I could play with ideas,

preach philosophies that turned on the girls,

i would listen to Steely Dan,

while trying to paralyze my body,

through some Buddhist meditation.

~

I remember seldom wondering about the next day.

I Cried Again Today

As I was drifting by,

little hands raised a blue ribbon,

to celebrate his sweet friend,

he was only wanting to remember

how much he cared for her,

how he loved her,

in that young child turning teen

sort of awkward stage.

He smiled as he rested the ribbon

in the middle of the

stop

sign and his nearby pal

understood why.

She was gone,

has been for far too long

already, in the manner of weeks,

and yet he will remember her,

cherish and love her spirit, again.

~

I thought of you,

my friend,

my pal,

the guy I thought so cool,

yet decades have passed,

in one fell swoop,

I see a child holding vigil

for another’s spirit.

I cried …

I thought of you.