Almost as soon as I opened my first email account, I started to receive unsolicited emails from friends and acquaintances that had a religious theme to them. I guess it is because I have always been active in church life, people want to share these messages and, I guess, there is an expectation that I will be in agreement with any statement that has to do with "church stuff."
One of these emails that has been circulating for years always pops up this time of year, probably because a new school year is imminent. It goes along the lines of:
Why do you allow so much violence in schools?
Dear Concerned Student,
I am not allowed in schools.
It has been a long time since I graduated high school, but I have friends who are teachers and I love the stories I hear coming from classrooms around the world:
- Three years ago, when the Syrian refugee crisis suddenly became a lead story around the world, schools were among the first groups to respond to our federal government's offer to participate in sponsorships. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised - a looney at a time - and families were brought to safety.
- After a gunman killed seventeen students and staff members on Valentine's Day this year, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida rose up and marched in protest of gun violence. They battled the gun lobby, internet trolls and even their own government but they have never backed down on their demands for safe schools for every student in the country.
- Almost every school in Canada now has an anti-bullying program that not only supports the victims but also offers help to the bullies to break their patterns of behaviour.
- Roots of Empathy is a classroom program which began in Toronto in 1996. In the program infants are taken to visit elementary schools on a regular basis, in order to allow the schoolchildren to observe the infants' development and emotions. It is now used internationally and has shown to have dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy.
Every day at a school somewhere new friendships are made, patient teachers help struggling students to make a breakthrough, and hungry kids get a nutritious breakfast for free.
Every day love is lived out at schools in our community, in our province, and around the world. It is lived out in compassion, patience, kindness and joy.
This is how I know that God is allowed in our schools. This is how I know that God is there.