Memories of Parkland

SumRachelArielIt’s been 5 years since we lived in Parkland, Florida.  During those years, three of them were spent driving carpools and volunteering at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and its next door neighbor, Westglades Middle School.

Over the last few days I’ve watched as especially our young friends in Florida try to come to grips with what has happened over social media.  Fear. Sadness. Despair. Trying to make sense of how this could even happen in the first place.

Most everyone knew someone who lost someone.

Reflections took me through a cavalcade of pictures and memories.  Long hours in the band hall, field trips and substitute teaching.  The buildings and halls that we saw from helicopter video feeds were the same halls and buildings where we lived our lives.

One thing stood out most to me as I read social media posts and sorted through photographs of our time there.  It was the word – FAMILY.  Parkland, FL, Stoneman Douglas, Westglades Middle and Church by the Glades had a special way of connecting and caring about one another that made the bond of community stronger.  I think it was, in a sense, that people were not afraid to be open about their struggles with others and because of it, they had a support system to help them grow.

Lizzy Reed (@lizzyreed), one of the high school ministry leaders at Church by the Glades may have said it best when asked by her students, “Where do we go from here?”  Her honest answer… “Wherever we go, we’ll go together.”

Over the next weeks, months and years, there will be a lot of continued heartache and despair, but if I can encourage you with one thought.  Don’t allow yourself to work through the sadness alone.  Sadness can turn to despair in a heartbeat if you keep it to yourself.  Take the bold step of being open and honest with others who are working through their pain and struggles too.  Celebrate that you live in a community that is also a family and with people who care about helping you make sense of it all.

When I was in my 20s, a pastor at our local church lost his wife and young daughter in a horrible car crash.  At the funeral I watched as he walked to the pulpit and made a statement that has stayed with me for thirty years.  It went something like this…

I don’t know why this unimaginable thing has happened, but I know it is up to me to decide how this will effect my life.  Either God will have the victory in this or Satan will.  My prayer, everyday, is that God will show me how he wants to use this experience in my life.

I don’t know what you are feeling today, or how this event will shape your life for years to come, but please know that you have a community that cares and wants to help you work through those struggles.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and share what you are feeling.  Odds are they are struggling with those same things too and working through them together you won’t feel so alone.


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