Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rachel's Challenge: Grieving the Death of A Child, Cultivating Hope

I wasn't familiar with the movement called Rachel's Challenge until recently, when the public high school where I work sponsored a speaker from the nonprofit organization. The father of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School shootings on April 20, 1999, started the group to promote his late daughter's two-page Code of Ethics, which she wrote a month before her murder. The code challenges people to be kind.

Priest friends and psychologists have told me that the death of one's child is a loss that is impossible to "get over." It is hard to consider how Rachel Scott's father feels, knowing his 17-year-old daughter was gunned down for no reason except she was sitting outside eating lunch in the sunshine with friends.

While Rachel's father was a pastor, the organization does not promote religion or politics. That makes sense when their audience is public high school students. But, to me,  its message is unmistakeably Christian. Kindness is a form of love. Love exists in us because we first were loved with a passion we didn't earn. We were summoned into being by a Presence that loves us without measure.

Making sense out of tragedy is a human task. The goal of Rachel's Challenge is to encourage students to start  "chain reactions of kindness." The speaker talked about how small actions by Rachel made an enormous difference to the children she encountered, including the new girl she sat with in the cafeteria and discovered later was mourning the death of her mom, and the disabled boy she physically protected from bullying.

The hundreds of students who watched the presentation were silent, serious and some of them were crying. I wiped tears from my face, too. It was so sad to see clips of Rachel Scott's baby years, her early childhood and to hear excerpts from her diary in which she stated she believed she would make a big impact on the world.

The assembly speaker reminded us that those you love can be gone within an instant. He encouraged students to treat everyone they encounter with kindness and love. It's easy, especially for teenagers, to forget how fragile the life we have been given is. The future we imagine is an illusion.

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind." Mother Teresa

1 comment:

  1. I had never heard of this before, either. Just took a look at their site- what an uplifting message to come from such tragedy!