We Teach Them How to Hope

April 19, 2013

Guest post by Megan Lawrence, director, Camp Wawayanda

Darkness. The sun has shone in the past couple days . . . but I can’t remember it. Why? Why can’t I remember the warmth of the sun and the music of the spring birds? I swear I remember seeing sunshine on the weather report for this week. How come it is so hard to place my finger on all of the good things that have happened?

Weeks like this make me feel like the sun has forgotten me, that there is very little left in this world to hope for-to believe in. Death and destruction fill our news feeds, prayers and sorrow inundate our lives 140 characters at a time. Pictures and messages are shared and passed at the click of a button. Something about how quickly sorrow spreads and penetrates our lives makes it feel less human.

My mind trails back to another dark week, one in 1995 — I was eight years old, waiting to walk to school, sitting at a neighbor’s house. We must have been watching morning cartoons . . . breaking news, a bomb had gone off somewhere far away. In the days following there was a picture on the front of our news paper that will be burned into my mind for years to come — a firefighter carrying a child. I’m sure I wept — scared, I don’t remember for certain — but I will never forget how dark that week was. That darkness didn’t last.

Fast forward four years. I was twelve. I don’t remember much about this week except racing home to watch TRL only to find breaking news being reported that there has been a horrific shooting at a school in Colorado. A school. Students — like me. In the days that followed this event adults talked to us about safety and school — I remember a tension in the air, convinced I would be scared forever that this could happen to me. That dark week ended though . . . we carried on.

I could easily comment on the days leading up to and following that awful day in September. Despite being old enough to understand the weight and the magnitude of the horror and devastation of that event — I was old enough to talk about it, and to reflect on it, and to try my very best to wrap my almost adult brain around it. The events above are burned into my brain because I was just a child.

We can’t protect youth from these dark weeks, when someone steals away the good and the warmth — our sunshine. These weeks are sadly going to happen. I think the adults in my life at the time did everything they could to shield me from the horrors of the Oklahoma City bombing and the school shooting in Colorado. I am lucky that the memories I have are limited to a few disturbing images and details of the events.

When the events of this week began to unfold and millions of statuses were filling news feeds across this world, a need to say something haunted me. But what was there say? How do we make sense of things that just don’t make sense?

After a few days of reflection and prayer I have determined that the only thing left is to continue to reflect and pray. Here lies my reflection and also my worry. I worry that in the stress and the sorrow and the darkness of this week we are leaving children exposed to images and details that will haunt their developing minds. The images and details are haunting me — an adult.

It isn’t just about shielding children — there is more. This week nearly stripped me of my optimism. I had forgotten how to hope but was reminded that truly all is lost when the adults of this world forget this essential skill. We are responsible for teaching hope and optimism and during dark weeks like this . . . it isn’t easy.

So then we teach our children how to mourn for our neighbors, and grieve for someone we’ve never met. We teach them how to pray or send positive vibes and energy — we teach them how to love. We teach them how to help people in need, we teach them how to be brave, and in the end — we do every.thing.in.our.power to restore their optimism and resilience because without these things moving forward is nearly impossible. We teach them how to hope and to appreciate the sunny days, because in the end it is the hope and the sun that gets us through these dark weeks.

Megan Lawrence grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan and has nine years of experience working with youth in the camping field. Megan has been a part of the Frost Valley Summer Camp Team since 2008, acting as the assistant program director for two summers, as program director for one summer, and, now as the Wawayanda director. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in Natural Resource Based Recreation from Michigan State University and is currently working to complete her masters in Youth Development Leadership through Clemson University. See the original post on Lawrence’s blog, I was the last child . . . .

Photo courtesy of Camp Pathway, Macon, Georgia