Thursday, 24 May 2012

Of Compassion & Hurt

It's not easy for many people here right now.  On Tuesday afternoon, a teacher from our high school who had taught a generation of students (she was now teaching the teens of parents she had taught when they were teens) was killed in a head on collision.  Mrs. Taylor was a wonderful teacher and a wonderful person in general.  She was one of those teachers that you wanted.

There are three types of teachers in high school - the ones that, when you look at your schedule, you pray you don't see their name listed.  I had a couple of those.  There are the teachers that when you see their name on your schedule you shrug and know you can deal with it, that it won't be so bad.  And then there are the teachers like Mrs Taylor.  The teachers that when you get your schedule you hope her name is on your schedule because she's a genuinely nice person and a good teacher.  But she also made learning fun.  I was never lucky enough to have her as a teacher, but she was one of those teachers where she was everyone's teacher, whether you were in her class or not.  She always had a smile and if she knew you were having a rough time, she'd make sure to ask you how you were doing.  That part I know from experience.

On Tuesday afternoon, our high school, our community, lost that teacher.  A lot of people - past and current students, people who were never her students but her colleagues, her family, her friends - are taking the loss very, very hard.

However, with that being said....

The young man that was driving the other vehicle crossed the centre line and struck Mrs. Taylor's car.  That much we know.  Anything after that isn't official but rumour.  And small towns are great places for rumours to thrive.  This young man is also a student at the high school.  I know who he is, but I will not name him, because while I don't respect what happened, I do respect his right to safety.

Safety, you say?  Yes. Safety.

See, here's the thing - grown ups aren't stupid.  So if you're one of my many student friends on my Facebook page and you're reading this, I'd like you to think very, very carefully about what I have to say next.  I'm not saying it because I'm a grown up and I think you're just a kid, because if you're on my friends list, I don't think that.  I respect you, I respect you as someone who has cared for my children in the past and probably will again in the future.  I respect you as a person with ideas, thoughts and a basic knowledge of the way the world works.  Heck, there are many adults I don't give that much credit to after listening to them talk.  But you, my young friends, you all I respect.

Adults aren't stupid.  We know what goes on behind the scenes.  We were all in high school once.  And many of us understand how Facebook works.  Many of us are also aware of the threats against this young man - including one that stated that if he was to dare show up at prom he "wouldn't leave alive."

So here is what I'd like you to do - I'd like you to put yourself in this young man's shoes for just a moment.  Say you were the one driving the vehicle.  Say you were the one that made that one, singular, stupid mistake - yes, a mistake - that took the life of someone as popular and loved as Mrs. Taylor.  Say it was you.  How would you want to be treated?  Would you expect people to be angry with you?  (Yes, probably they would be.)  Would you expect to be threatened?  (I would hope not.)  Say it was not you, but your best friend that had been the driver.  Say they were the one being threatened, being called "teacher killer" (because yes, we adults know about that one too).  How would you want your friend to be treated?  How would you want you to be treated?  Think about that and then treat that young man the way that you would want to be treated.  In every faith tradition, there is an approximate saying of the popular Christian one - "Do unto others as you would want done unto you."  And remember - no one is without fault.  Remember the other saying - let ye who is without sin cast the first stone.

I am sure that, as any adult could probably attest, there are times in which we have all done something remarkably stupid in which we are lucky we didn't get ourselves killed or kill someone else.  I can name one right off the top of my head and I could probably name more if I tried.  If you haven't done something that remarkably stupid I am willing to guarantee you that one day you will.  And when that day comes, thank God or Buddha or whomever you like for the fact that you did not get hurt or hurt someone else.  Unfortunately, this young man cannot say the same thing, and that is something that he will have to live with forever.  He is going through his own personal hell and what he needs is the compassion of others to not pile on more.

And if you're the parent of a teenager, please make sure you actually know what they are doing on Facebook.  Make sure they're not one of the ones threatening this young man with serious bodily harm, and if they are, do something.  Don't just sit there, use this as a learning experience.  Maybe you say to me "what do you know, your kids are still little."  Well, what I do know is this - we talked about this yesterday because it was talked about at school.  Camden made a comment about his teacher telling him that the other person fell asleep and killed someone.  And so we talked.  We talked about the fact that we (the general public) may not ever know what happened, but that it's not up to us to judge, it's up to God (though I do know there are some reading this who don't believe in God, but it's still not up to us to judge).  We talked about how people make mistakes and that it's how we act towards them after that tells others our own character.  To threaten someone because they accidentally took the life of someone else tells the community that we are not of good character and do not know compassion.  But to show this person compassion shows others how we would want to be treated.

Here is one thing I do know - If you want to honour Michelle Taylor, do what she would have wanted done towards this young man.  Mrs. Taylor would not have wanted you to be threatening his life.  She would not have wanted "a life for a life."  She would not have wanted him to be treated cruelly.  Think about how Mrs Taylor treated her students and the people she came across in day to day life - with compassion, with respect, with a smile, and with a "how are you today?"  You, we, everyone has the right to be angry.  But take your anger and make it into a positive.  A friend has made it be known that Mrs Taylor was passionate about her work with Free The Children.  So instead of using the anger in a negative, instead of getting yourself into trouble (because remember, threatening is a criminal offense, as is assault, and should anyone actually act on these threats it will not be this young man sitting in a court room, but whomever is stupid enough to act negatively in anger), join with the students she lead in the KDSS branch of Free The Children. Do something positive in the community in Mrs Taylor's memory, even if you're the only one that knows about it.

We all have the right to be angry.  We all have the right to be hurting.  We all have the right to shed tears.  And someday, we'll all have the right to look back on Mrs Taylor's life and legacy and smile, and remember that she made a difference to many, many people over her lifetime, including myself.

From God we come, and to God we return.  But sometimes, like this time, it seems that return is too soon.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Alice,
    My son is AJ Adams. He sent me the link to your blog. I am so grateful that he did. I can only wish that every single person within our community reads this, absorbs it and lives by it. I have been so proud of AJ in the past, but he has shown me even more reasons in this past week on his character and I've never been more proud of him and how he is coping with the loss of Mrs. Taylor.
    Again, thank you for this blog and I truly hope it is read by many.