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Blog Friends, I usually don’t write long missives, but I ask you to read this one. (It’s a quick read, I promise.)

I am a true baby boomer, born in 1950 when our country was celebrating life. My childhood was an innocent one spent climbing trees and playing with kittens and dolls in small town Midwestern USA. The only killing I knew was fictional in the television portrayals of the old west or of the war. Even when I was protesting the Vietnam War in the 60s, I was isolated from the killing and violence.

I’m grading student essays now; as frequently happens when they have a prompt that promotes a personal response, I ache for them as I read their words, even the poorly written ones. Many have written about a loved one who was shot or who committed suicide. Many wrote about family in prison for murder.

One girl wrote of a recent party she attended. She just wasn’t thinking when she put on her new outfit of red sweater and skinny blue jeans. Get it? Red = Bloods; Blue = Crips. Representatives of both gangs were at that party and both were ready to jump her for wearing the “colors” … especially together. They forced her to take off the clothes; when her boyfriend brought her an all-black outfit she realized that those who wanted to stay outside of the gang conflicts were wearing all black.

Another girl wrote this today. It’s not good writing, but her voice is strong. This essay makes me hurt for my students because I know that her words represent the feelings of a majority of my students.

When I was little, I didn’t know how bad the world really was. As I get older, I see that people are getting killed for dumb reasons. It makes me barely wanna go outside. Life is not promised to me or anyone. I love my life. I’m not ready to die yet. People are yet still killing.

People are being killed over colors, signs, and just going out to have a good time. When people get killed, I get scared. I feel if they kill innocent people for nothing, my life doesn’t mean anything to them either. I now know the world is crazy and it is a very scary place.

People shoot and kill for no good reason at all. They think it’s a style and it’s cool. One day I hope the people who killed people will get it. You’re not supposed to be scared of a world that was created for you. I’ll be happy when one day we can all be in peace.

A few years ago, I attended two “Anytown” camps with students; the purpose is to tear down the walls of hatred and prejudice and build tolerance. One of the activities involves identifying the violence in our lives. I was shocked to learn that almost all of the students had been involved in or are related to someone involved in a violent death. More astounding is the number of students who have actually witnessed a murder. Many of them had had loaded guns pointed at them; many had been shot or had shot someone.

I personally have lost far too many students to violence and drugs.

I ache for these young people who do not know the safety and comfort of a time and place when people did not lock their doors, when it was safe to sit outside at night, when you could drive with your windows open and not be afraid.