Never Go Godless into the World
I can tell a lot about people based on the way they respond when I tell them I teach kids from Camden. And trust me, I've gotten responses from all over the board.
Mr. J had a publication party for his book, and at that event, one of the liberal columnists from his newspaper literally got teary-eyed and told me what a noble cause I was devoting myself to.
Day before yesterday, other end of the spectrum, a woman said to me, "Wow. How come you haven't been shot yet?"
Of course, the truth falls squarely in the middle of these extremes.
The noble cause is complicated by the fact that I'm trying to teach teenagers. Remember when you were a teenager? Did you like sitting still and writing essays? Okay, okay, I did. But I was still rowdy. It's in the teenage playbook to be rowdy. Sometimes it's in the teenage playbook to be nasty and rude, other times sullen and even teary. Emotions all over the place. Kind of complicates the high-minded mission of the dedicated educator.
I was highly offended by the stereotype that all Camden teenagers are trigger-happy. Let me tell you, quite the opposite is the case. My students live their lives surrounded by gun violence, and they have seen the consequences of it more closely than anyone this side of Iraq. Shootings like the one this past week in Aurora totally baffle my kids. They understand targeted violence (and try to steer way clear of it). They don't understand randomness, unless it's a drive-by with collateral damage.
Having said that, my school is state-mandated to practice Code Orange drills where we act like there's an active shooter in the building. These drills make my students anxious. Inevitably they ask: "What if the shooter just shoots out the glass in the door and comes into the room?"
And I tell them, "I would try to protect you, even if it meant that I got shot. I've lived a good long life, and you are still young."
The sad truth is that I'm not sure I would have the courage to do that. This bothers me exceedingly, readers. If I could put a finger on one thing that really scares me, it's how I would respond if some
This can happen anywhere. Last year this time, my daughter The Heir was in Oslo. She heard a pop like firecrackers, and all the glass blew out of the store she was in. A couple of hours later, more than four dozen teenagers had been shot dead on an offshore island. In Oslo. Freakin. Norway.
I find myself asking myself the most dreadful question. Would I have the courage, the faith in Higher Powers, to put myself in front of a bullet to save someone else's life?
See, this is why I take my bored gods with me to school. I may not talk about Them in class, but this economy is causing people to lose their minds. Never go Godless into the world, that's my philosophy. Hope that you can rise to any occasion. Hope even more that you'll never, ever face that test.