Last Wednesday was the 17th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Last Wednesday I sat in a room at Waterstone Community Church, getting ready to facilitate a workshop on Mental Health, and realized I was only a few miles away from the building where 2 young men committed suicide, killing 13 and wounding 24 others before doing so.
The memorial, the books, and the statement “We are Columbine” remind us that life changed that day. In the days after Columbine, gun control seemed to be the topic of every conversation on Capitol Hill. In memory of everyone who lost their life that day, and of the many others who will never live the same afterward, politicians went to work to prevent future disasters.
But they didn’t stop.
On October 1st, 2015, Newsweek reported the 45th school shooting of 2015, a shooting in Charleston, SC. And they haven’t stopped since. In fact, they seem to have become commonplace.
Last Wednesday, on the anniversary of Columbine, 20 or so people at Waterstone talked about what their lives could be like if they could experience life. They were people who experienced mental illness, or walked with those who did. They talked about what their lives could be like for their friends and family. They talked about what they hoped for. They talked about being accepted and loved in community. They talked about being able to really live.
During the 2 hours we sat together, the character of the evening shifted. In a church of people from all walks of life, these 20 people found they were not alone. They heard their struggles in others’ stories, and began to relate to each other as fellow voyagers on a path to healing. We talked about mental illness together, but we really talked about experiencing life.
The opposite of death is not the absence of death, it’s life. Keeping a person from suicide may keep a person from dying, but the promise of Jesus is more than that, it is a promise of life. In the case of last Wednesday, 20 people gathered together, on the anniversary of Columbine to fight for the their lives and the lives of their loves ones. They spoke openly of their struggles and wounds, and in community found a sense that they belonged. They also found a glimpse of hope that their lives might still be lives worth living.
I wish I could single-handedly stop all of the shootings, all of the pain, and all of the chaos. But the only way I now how to make a difference is to inspire people to life. So on the anniversary of Columbine, we gathered together, and inspired life in one another. In our own way, we memorialized Columbine, 17 years later.