In preparation for helping with “Kid Writing” in Aiden’s class, I have just submitted the following to the school district:
Upper Dublin Volunteer Application
Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Record Check
Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance
FBI fingerprints form
All this, for spending 45 minutes a week in a classroom that also has two teachers in it. While I recognize the value in being “cleared” before working with children, it still makes me sad. Sad that we live in a world and at a time when no one can really trust anyone, when we see danger lurking around every corner. I vividly recall zipping into my own children’s elementary school, sans any paperwork at all, to volunteer at learning centers and holiday parties. At church, I remember being alone with my sixth grade Sunday School class, and at Friday night youth group as well. It wasn’t all that long ago, and now things have changed utterly. Were we all living in a fool’s paradise?
I am old enough to have ridden in the family station wagon, which had no seat belts, much less air bags or child safety seats. Now we are all strapped in as for a trip to the moon, and yet accidents still happen, and injuries still occur. Were cars really that much safer back in the day, or were we just blissfully clueless about the hazards of the road?
With the horrifying uptick in school gun violence, the “active shooter drill” has become commonplace, even with the youngest students. Recent studies have shown that these exercises, while possibly saving lives, are also greatly traumatizing the participants. Yes, we hid under our desks in the 1960s once in a while to prepare for a possible nuclear bomb attack, but I don’t remember being very scared (it just seemed so farfetched—not to mention the fact that even those huge heavy Catholic school desks would be of zero protective value if we were ever nuked). Now, it is all too easy to imagine the armed intruder, because it’s happening over and over again.
Just being alive is a very risky business. We can barricade ourselves behind triple locked doors all we want, we can require notarized proof of innocence from everyone we encounter, and we will still never be 100% secure. I’d love us to learn to relax just a bit, and trust just a bit more. I am incredibly lucky to live in suburban America and not war-ravaged Syria; maybe I should dial back the panic when I pass a stranger in the street…maybe I can even greet that person with a friendly smile, realizing the odds are very much against him or her being a serial killer.
This crazy mixed up world is Aiden and Peter’s world now. I pray for them, and for all the little ones, that after we do what we can to stay safe, we spend more of our precious time on this planet enjoying the great gift of life, and one another.