Trending for all the Wrong Reasons

I went to a year of middle school and all three years of high school in a town called Chardon in northeastern Ohio. I didn’t like it very much. In fact, being uprooted from my life in Hawaii and moving to Chardon was one of the reasons I attempted suicide at age 11. (That wasn’t Chardon’s fault, and is a story for another day. If you’re interested you can read about it here.)

Chardon was a small community and closed to outsiders. At least that’s how it seemed to me. People asked me if I wore grass skirts to school in Hawaii and whether I had to run to a well when I wanted a glass of water. They asked for story after story about Hawaii and then told me I was “acting big” when I told them. I thought that was Chardon. I didn’t know it was school–a fairly universal experience of school for those of us who don’t see it as our gloriest of days. 

I still have family in Chardon, and that family loves that town for all the reasons I didn’t. The tight-knit closeness. The we-don’t-leaveness. I have friends there, also. Not many–I cut ties with that high school when I left it, graduating a full year early so that I could move onto a place that felt more in alignment with who I was and wanted to become. 

Last year, something unspeakable happened. A teenage gunman opened fire and killed 3 students and injured 3 others. But of course he injured more than that. He injured everyone in that school, everyone in that town. I won’t say the shooter’s name, but I will say that I went to high school with his parents, as well as the parents of two of the victims. Other than my personal Facebook page I have refrained from commenting on this tragedy. 

But today. 

Today, when he was sentenced. Well, if you’ve read the articles or watched the news, you know. And if you haven’t–don’t. It will stain your soul the way it has mine. The sadness, the anger that washes over me is akin to when it first happened. I feel my insides curl in on themselves, aching for those parents, for that community I never liked. 

I’m sorry, Chardon. So deeply sorry that you have gone through this and continue to. Sorry that today the knife was twisted deeper by a profoundly disturbed man-child. I have been told by each and every family member and friend that still lives in Chardon that this tragedy has brought this town even closer together, and I’m so grateful for that. On this day especially, when insult has been added to still-open injury, I find myself trying to breathe through what I cannot wrap my head around.

But the wounding wasn’t in the head. It struck to the heart–of a small town, of the parents of those precious children, of anyone in global community who stopped to pay attention. And it’s in our hearts where it will be healed. Today my heart is open–raw and bleeding, but open–and I find myself flooded with compassion. Compassion for Chardon, for all those suffering in all corners of the world, and even for the places in myself that have yet to surrender to compassion.

I’m wrapping the world in love today, with special focus on a little town in northeastern Ohio. I hope you’ll join me.