Where there is hope in the face of such tragedy

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Record Observer - - Opinion -

Tol­er­ance. It’s some­thing I’ve been ex­am­in­ing a lot these days as I con­sider what is be­ing re­ported daily by politi­cians vy­ing for our vote and at­ten­tion and as I see stu­dents car­ried out from schools on stretch­ers. I think there is a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween tol­er­ance and ac­cept­ing or be­ing in agree­ment.

Fol­low­ing the tragedy that led to the death of 16-year-old girl at her school in Wilm­ing­ton, Del., I told my chil­dren to stand there and let such a thing oc­cur as some of these stu­dents did was as wrong as start­ing the fight. There is a dif­fer­ence in tol­er­at­ing some­one’s be­liefs or views and ac­cept­ing bad be­hav­ior as the norm. Tol­er­ance isn’t an ex­cuse to be­have poorly, and I re­gret that I have to ex­plain this to my mid­dle and el­e­men­tary school stu­dents.

How do I teach them that we should show each other love and re­spect, when as soon as some­one doesn’t get what they think they de­serve, they re­spond with an out­burst, a protest, a bar­rage of name-call­ing and yes, of­ten, phys­i­cal or ter­ror­is­tic vi­o­lence.

To say it is com­mon­place to re­spond to a dis­agree­ment or dis­like of some­one’s idea or opin­ion with vi­o­lence is a gross un­der­state­ment. Where do we get off de­cid­ing it is okay to as­sert our­selves and our opin­ions with vi­o­lence and ha­tred?

You don’t have to agree with some­one to tol­er­ate their be­liefs or opin­ion. You can do that while main­tain­ing your own. And when a law or pro­posed leg­is­la­tion forces us to agree with some­thing that is firmly against our be­liefs, we have the right to law­fully pur­sue a change of that leg­is­la­tion, legally and peace­fully. We are blessed be­yond be­lief to have those rights, and yet we per­sist in mak­ing a mock­ery of the very sys­tem that al­lowed us those rights.

This time of year we are af­forded the op­por­tu­nity to wit­ness the high school and col­lege grad­u­ates who are poised and ready to make a dif­fer­ence in the world. And yet, I won­der how many more grad­u­at­ing classes will feel this way, or will they be­gin to feel it is point­less to try to ef­fect a change? What kind of ex­am­ple are we mak­ing for them?

But there is hope, and where there is hope there is a chance. A chance that we don’t have to stay in this place where we ac­cept this is “just the way things are.” Cameron McCoy is a se­nior at Easton High School, his words writ­ten to class­mates and for­mer friends on so­cial me­dia are now go­ing vi­ral, be­cause McCoy had the courage and op­ti­mism to stand for what he be­lieves in de­spite be­ing seen as stand­ing out as the one who is go­ing against the flow. ““What drives me to do what I do is the fact that right now no one else is,” said McCoy.

McCoy, along with seven other stu­dents in Mary­land, has been cho­sen to travel to Nicaragua this sum­mer.

“We are learn­ing skills that would al­low me to cre­ate my own pro­ject one day, and ini­ti­ate plans I have to re­shape the world, and re­build the racial bridges that have been burned over the years,” he said.

He be­lieves in in­tegrity and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and in tak­ing ev­ery cir­cum­stance as a bless­ing re­gard­less of sex, color, na­tion of ori­gin or creed. A bless­ing, an op­por­tu­nity, a choice ... not a rea­son to re­act or jus­tify neg­a­tive be­hav­ior ... a bless­ing. How wise would we be to take notes on this 17-yearold’s phi­los­o­phy?

McCoy said he be­lieves the ma­jor­ity of pain peo­ple go through is self-in­flicted, be­cause we don’t put our­selves in the right place spir­i­tu­ally or emo­tion­ally. “I think for me the de­cid­ing fac­tor is my faith in God and my faith in hu­man­ity. Be­cause I be­lieve hu­man­ity will al­ways pre­vail with God on our side.”

He wants to rep­re­sent those who are voice­less and op­poses those who would use their voice to in­sti­gate calamity and not hu­man­ity.

I couldn’t agree more. Go with grace.

HAN­NAH COMBS

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