Fighting school shootings starts with changing our campus

We need to stop it before it even happens.

In 2015 alone, 52 shooters have barged into schools and 83 thuds have hit the floor–83 students and teachers who woke up thinking it was just going to be another school day faced unexpected horror. Another day, which began with them already wishing they were back in their cozy bed, a place they wouldn’t be returning to, ended with an abrupt turn. After seeing numerous cases of school shootings everywhere in the media, we begin to become ignorant of the fact that the incident of a shooter on campus isn’t something that only happens to other schools; we become blind to the fact that this could happen to our own school at any moment. However, becoming fearful and planning on where to hide or which direction to run if gunshots fill the air isn’t the key; it’s figuring out how to stop it before it even happens.

The answer lies in one word: kindness.

Out of the 52 shooters, 75 percent attacked because they felt either bullied or rejected, while 24 percent wanted attention and recognition, according to the FBI. They were left with feeling as if a cloak of invisibility draped their every move, as if the moments that they dared to pull it back, a storm of mean words and looks awaited them, blocking the sun. This cloak narrows their thoughts to violence as being the only escape route from  the depths of despair they feel they’ve fallen into. One in three teenagers have been bullied. How can we make a difference? Well, it’s actually quite simple.

Kindness is the key.

We’ve all had those moments when we’ve experienced a dose of kindness and we’ve instantly felt like a million bucks. Go ahead, think about that moment. Maybe you get a “just thinking of you” text. Or maybe your parents randomly take you to go get ice cream after school. Maybe someone gives you a compliment on your outfit or haircut. It could be even as simple as a kind smile on a day where you feel as though you’ve just been a handed a s’more without the chocolate. It’s the small acts like these that spread happiness. It’s easy to be kind to our friends and family; those are the ones that we’re around all time and who we know the best. It becomes a whole new step up when we extend that kindness to strangers or acquaintances. It’s so easy to get caught up in our day and our agenda and forget to look around at those around us. The thing that amazes me is that nowadays, we seem to always find the time to say “jokes” or to judge other people, but when it comes to kindness, we can’t seem to squeeze it in.
Truth is, each pair of eyes you look into is one of a kind. Each person you speak to or look at is unique, and there is only one of them in the entire world. Rather than staring at the stone grey pavement as you travel to your next class, look up. Look into the eyes of your peers, your classmates, people who are in the same boat you are traveling on the same voyage through life as you, and smile. Look into their eyes and make a positive impact on them, even if it’s just through a compassionate look. We don’t know what they’re going through and a moment of kindness could make all the difference. Who knows, maybe you could be the one to lift the invisibility cloak off of them and help the sun break through.

School shootings are scary, but what if we could create a campus where kindness spreads to every classroom, locker, and person? What if? What if we could avoid a shooting? What if we chose to say a compliment even it means swallowing the urge to say that “joke”? What if smiling at each other became the new norm, rather than staring at the gum covered walkways? It may not be easier, but I challenge you. I challenge you, next time you hear that bell ring and you step out of your class, to smile. Spread the kindness. The choice to take that challenge or leave it, is up to you, but I challenge you all the same.

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