This week as students and faculty are laid to rest in Parkland, Florida, I sat at my computer and studied their faces, praying for their families. I read about their too-short lives, gunned down on Valentine’s Day by a violent and mentally disturbed young man who should have never been allowed access to a gun. And I was shocked to discover my own name there.
Meadow Pollack, 18, was among the victims. A senior. The baby of her family. Described by a cousin as an incredible girl who was cherished by all. Just one of the 17 victims slain by hate on the day of love. And yet, it was her name – so uncommon, so peaceful – that made me catch my breath and bow my head. I wasn’t only weeping for this beautiful brown-eyed girl. I was weeping for us. For all of us.
I wept for what we have become. For what our nation has become. A nation ruled by fear and violence. A nation that sheds innocent blood, where the rights of predators are protected above the rights of their future victims. I wept for what we have to teach our children: run, hide, fight. And for each of those who died trying to do just that.
Each morning before my children head to school, I pray for their safety and the safety of their classmates and teachers. But we must also pray for the wisdom and actions of our leaders who argue and point fingers and pontificate as parents bury their beloved children and children bury their parents.
I pray that they will have the wisdom of Solomon, who said, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” Proverbs 24:11-12 (NLT). Rescue requires action. Ignorance is no excuse. Hearts are being weighed, and a day of reckoning is coming.
I pray that those who determine our laws will heed the cry of the prophet Amos, who wrote, “Hate what is evil and love what is good. Turn your courts into true halls of justice… I want to see a mighty flood of justice, and endless river of righteous living,” (Amos 5:15, 24). Justice and righteousness flow in the same stream.
And I pray with the psalmist David, “Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent,” (Psalm 140:4). Keep our children safe. Keep our schools safe.
If we want the violence to end, if we want to send our children to school with our greatest worry being whether they will catch the bus and if we remembered to pack their snacks, we must grieve as if each of our own names was on the list of those slain last week. We must grieve as if each of our children’s names was written there. And we must demand change.
Because how many more names do we need before we do something?
Meadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.