'Columbine' has become a word easily recognized by everyone, not just Coloradoans. I remember where I was when the news was breaking on that horrific day, April 20, 1999. I remember the fear, shock, and disbelief that washed over me as I was standing in line waiting to check out of a local grocery store.
Conversations among total strangers erupted as we shared our disbelief that something of this magnitude could possibly be happening, even as the police were still searching buildings and students were scrambling to safety. The stories of parents, panicked and thrown into total terror at the prospect that their child could be in danger, were flying over the airwaves like bees buzzing around a beehive. Soon we knew that this wasn't an overblown, sensational news story; it was based in reality, no matter how surreal it seemed.
Since that day, the list of atrocities has grown. Now, it seems never-ending. Within the last few years, innocent children were ruthlessly slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A shooting in an Aurora, Colorado theatre took the lives of 12 people and injured 70 others. On April 9, 2014 a 16- year-old went on a stabbing rampage in Murraysville, Pennsylvania. We just marked the anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing. It is mind numbing.
All of this (and more) has lead to heated debates regarding many things, including:
•Safety drills and more preparedness in schools
•Armed guards in more places
No one seems to have the answers. It goes so much deeper than the notions that are thrown around within the course of conversations in neighborhoods, schools, political assemblies, or at cocktail parties. There is no simple answer that is neat, tidy, and concise enough to explain why such destruction and despair is becoming so prevalent and pervasive in our society. If there was such an answer, by now someone would have found and acted on it, right?
As midlife women, it is once again time to use our voices and generate change. We have created change in meaningful, significant arenas and it didn't benefit just us as a group. It benefited the generations that followed. The credit for major changes in how America gave birth and navigated many difficult situations in life from PMS, peri-menopause, and menopause belongs to us. We used our voices and made well-informed choices.
At this time, we have an obligation to mobilize once again for the sake of younger generations that need us. They need our ideas and thoughts, but most of all they need our time. Yes, time. One-on-one time with a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or any person younger than us. Our wisdom, input and guidance is invaluable, especially now. The only way that can happen is if we take action, just as we have in the past. Individually and collectively, we can once again make a difference.
I listened to a child psychologist speak after one of the recent tragedies. He was asked how we could keep our children protected. His response was immediate and on target. He said, "A connected child is a protected child."
Many believe that the current age of technology keeps us more connected. I disagree. Computers, cellphones, iPads, etc. serve a purpose, but it's not to keep us connected with each other. The disconnect amongst people is startling. Instead of interacting with a real, live human being, we read emails or texts. Or, perhaps we read a blog. We're far more attached to technology than people.
The bottom line is that we have lost sight of the value of being 'connected' with others. An extraordinarily high price is being paid by everyone. Instead of getting together after school or work, we text. According to a USA Today report written May 3, 2013, "The average American texts an average of 19 times per day."
Technology is here to stay. Without it most businesses, schools, etc. would come to a grinding halt. But, technology will never be a substitute for personal interaction. Our children and grandchildren have been robbed of their innocence and now we are robbing them of our time. The consequences are obvious and alarming. It's time to start making conscious choices to connect; really connect.
Time doesn't just appear. We have to make time. Being too "plugged-in" applies to us in midlife as well. Make time to share your beliefs, wisdom, and concerns; it makes a difference. Plant seeds -- food for thought. We can't do that without turning off our own cellphones when we are with others. Listen hard, take in what you hear, and respond by expressing your truth. The only true gift we have to give someone is our truth, and it matters. Give it freely, even if it isn't "politically correct." Encourage others to achieve a balance; a balance which has been lost.
If you touch just one person's life, you have made a difference.