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Marilynn Halas Headshot

Teaching Empathy; A Matter of Life and Death

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With her family and friends, today we mourn the loss of Maren Sanchez who was brutally killed at Jonathan Law High School this morning in Milford, Connecticut. She was only 16-years-old. Sweet Sixteen. She was preparing for a bright future, I bet she had hopes and dreams and plans, maybe she planned to go to their prom tonight; surely she planned to see the sunset. Details are still emerging but the suspected killer is her classmate and also only 16. So many lives inexorably changed today as one girl's life was ripped away.

As a parent, as a Connecticut resident and as a human being I can only say that I am heart broken and mad as hell. When did killing another child become an option? Why isn't conflict resolution a class in all our schools? Why is basic life skills education less accessible than junk food? Imagine a world where families and schools got the support and information they need to affect socio emotional learning for everyone.

Violence is the end result of many conflicts that might have been resolved constructively if our children had the skill set required. Skills like empathy and effective communication. Training for everyone around dealing with aggression. Discussion of body language as legitimate communication and teaching our kids how to understand the difference between what is said and what is shown. All of these things can equip our community to resolve conflicts, not escalate them.

I know there are no words to adequately explain or even attempt to understand why this kind of violence is becoming more common even as our laws become more reactive and our society grows a little more numb. But we can't afford to be numb. Another tragedy might be avoided if we seek out something better for our kids.

We need heroes for our kids that show them about self-control and teamwork. We need to teach our kids resiliency so they can grow. Disappointment is a natural part of life and all kids need to understand how to deal with that. We need our kids to understand that the exercise of any right ends the moment it stops another person from exercising their rights. The fear of pain and the pursuit of pleasure cannot be the driving force of our existence.

Maren had a right to live and that right is more important than anyone else's frustration or entitlement. Perspective, self-control and empathy; the awareness that you are not the only person in the world; these are called LIFE skills for a reason. These are the skills that allow life to exist.

So again today we mourn, but we also have hope. There are more good people than bad, more helpers than hurters and today we have another chance to begin again.

Let's not let Maren's death be in vain. Let's honor her with a renewed call for empathy for all of us.