Call your mom! I remember my roommate telling me this on September 17, 1996. He continued to tell me how there was a shooting on the HUB lawn, and I needed to make sure my mom knows that I am O.K. Melanie Spalla lost her life that day. I need to apologize to her and her family for I had to look up her name. I also had to look up the date of the attack.
In the stories of school shootings, this one does not get remembered. It was not “tragic enough.” However, any act of violence is too much violence.
Malcolm Gladwell is a very talented author. I have personally enjoyed a number of his books, Outliers being a particularly good one. He writes for the New Yorker and recently wrote a story about school shootings called “Thresholds of Violence How school shootings catch on.”
He describes well the web of confusion that results when you try to analyze and figure out why school shootings happen. He refers to work done by Mark Granovetter who studied riots.
But Granovetter thought it was a mistake to focus on the decision-making processes of each rioter in isolation. In his view, a riot was not a collection of individuals, each of whom arrived independently at the decision to break windows. A riot was a social process, in which people did things in reaction to and in combination with those around them.
On their own, one person may not “turn over a car.” However, it only takes one person to start. Then it becomes easier for someone else to participate. Then it becomes even easier for the next person to join in. This is what Granovetter means by calling it a “social process.” Gladwell applies this concept to school shootings, where similar to riots, other people “join in” because others went before them.
Yes, if you take this approach, it can easily scare you to think where this is going on.
I do not want to you leave you thinking that shootings will continue to increase in numbers. I pray they do not. I do want to leave you with some thoughts offered by Taylor Bird in “What Can Churches Learn from School Shooters?”
He is reflecting on Gladwell’s article as well. He asks, if people are learning to repeat patterns they see, then why can we not do this in reverse?
But what if the opposite were also true? What if we took some of the tenets of Granovetter’s proposal and reversed them? Might there also be Spirit-orchestrated “thresholds of grace”? Might we instead provoke one another in the church to commit positive, life-giving acts?
I like this idea. Why not seek to gain momentum the other way? There are so many kids doing great things out there. We need to celebrate these stories more and more. Let us put them on the news. Let us fill the airways with stories of kids being heroes, kids saving the world.
I did a quick Google search for “kids changing the world” and found many examples. Here is one article by Sona Charaipotra, “8 Kids Who Are Changing the World.”