Principal Griffiths spoke the words but the sound was seemingly not coming from his mouth. I know he was simply talking a succinct, challenging sentence but the words themselves were shimmering with colors and mysteries. When God wants to tell us something the message often rides on regular human speech, right?
It was the day after Columbine H.S. had blood in its hallways --- 1999. I went to see principal Griffiths at Aiea H.S. where my boys would matriculate in a few years. I knocked on his door and asked him what we have to do to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in our neighborhood high school. Here’s what he told me. (Try to read this as if the words are vibrating and glowing) “Neither of the shooters at Columbine had a single adult friend. They didn’t know anybody who cared if they lived or died. Our school needs people of good will from the community to come on campus and befriend our hostile kids.” I was beyond impressed all the way up to inspired. The seed of Common Grace was planted that day.
Fast forward to last week, Wednesday, March 21, 2018. I heard some strong, extra-ordinary, straight-down-from-the-halls-of-heaven words once again at Aiea H.S. This time from a student. It was the Walk Out Day for America’s teenagers to honor the memory of 17 kids slaughtered in their Park City, Florida high school by a deranged, maybe demonized former student with a combat rifle. The name of the student leader is Ufi Ale. Ufi is a YouthGrace mentor, plays forward on the high school basketball team, throws shot and discus for track and field. She’s terrific with her YouthGrace kid and, now I realize, a mighty influence for good among her peers.
Hundreds of kids were milling aimlessly around when Ufi shouted, “Make a big circle! Grab a hand! Let’s pray!” (Yes! Student-led prayer is still allowed in our public schools.) I can’t quote her actual words but I’ll remember three salient points in her loud, bold prayer: 1) Please comfort the families and friends of the students who were slain, 2) Please protect our Aiea H.S. community and all other schools from this evil and, 3) Give us the kindness and the courage we need to go sit beside a student who is alone in the cafeteria or new to our school. One thing we all can do is make sure our classmates feel noticed, respected and loved.
Amen, Ufi-girl. Amen.