The Work of Peace in a Community

The Work of Peace in a Community
Posted on 12/18/2018
Image of David JamesThere really is no good reason for us to save our most important messages for the holiday season. I suppose Christmas and Thanksgiving do give more of us cause to reflect and slow down a bit, but really, I'd like to ask everyone reading this to strongly consider making a regular habit of extending messages of peace, no matter how simple they may be, as often as you can in the coming year.

And, while we are at it, let us observe the world in which we are living. Can you see the fear for tomorrow in the looks of people? Can you hear the cries of parents who are losing their children each day either in gun violence that ends their life or in a protracted battle with some mind and life altering chemical substance? Or the cries of children losing their parents to the same?

Now ask yourself, is this where we want to be? Is this the place where each child expects to grow up when he or she opens those innocent eyes and sees the world for the first time? Are you able to look in the eyes of those children without the feeling of shame for this reality full of evil, which they have to face? Is this what we have prepared for them?

We cannot deny the simple truth that we are the ones who have been constantly shaping this reality. But, another simple truth is that it is not too late to change something and (with apologies to the great husband-wife songwriting team Ashford & Simpson) make this world a better place, if you can.

So why not create good instead of evil? Why not make peace instead of war? Why not spread love and compassion instead of hate and arrogance?

No one is born with evil within. We are born, filled with love toward everyone and everything around us. But, somehow, we are feeding ourselves from a very dark place over and over again.

This past year in our city has been as violent as any I can recall. Not a week goes by where there isn't a shooting. Some weeks, not a day goes by. Not all of these acts end in death, but they say something about our society, our culture of violence that accepts on some level that this is how we settle our differences. Crimes against someone's property have always contained an element of violence. Now, people just use violence to settle an argument or to seek retribution for some previous transgression.

But ours is a violent society that tends to value and glamorize violence. When a child becomes a legal adult, he will have seen 16,000 killings and 200,000 acts of violence on television and social media outlets.

Our children are numbed to all the violence and accept it as a means to solve problems.

In our schools, we have been fortunate. But, we know that even with all of the preparation, safeguards, precautions and education of how to keep our children and staff safe, many things are out of our control. No community, region or nation can guarantee everyone's safety every day.

And while the toll of violence, particularly on children, remains unabated, what has changed is the growing number of advocates working to prevent it. Pediatricians, parents, elected officials and advocacy organizations have pushed for reforms and to engage their communities in change. But it hasn't been enough to stop seven children from dying from violence every day.

Violence rips through the fabric of a community; it happens in insidious ways through accidental shootings, suicides and pervasive urban violence that plagues our communities but fails to sustain our attention. We need to change the script from empathy to action.

I know how hard so many of you work to make this a better place, a better community. But we need more. More peace and compassion that will earn us the right to look in our children's eyes with the feeling of love for the world we have built for them.

This may not be the holiday message you expected from me, but the issues surrounding violence in our community, especially among our most precious children, is weighing heavily on me.

My wish this holiday season is that some way, somehow, those families who have lost loved ones to violence will find peace, and that those whose lives have been blessed will share their happiness, peace and goodness with as many people as they can.

Best Wishes,
Image of David James Signature

David W. James
Superintendent
Akron Public Schools
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