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As senior year comes to an end and we walk away from high school into a much bigger and more complicated world, we should not leave our years at Tree without reflecting on time spent here together and remembering what we have observed across the country, especially in the last year.
There is certainly no simple answer to the tragic events that have occurred at other high schools recently. We look at the tragedies of Jonesboro, Pearl, Fayetteville, Springfield, Edinboro, West Paducah, Moses Lake, Jacksonville, and Littleton and question the reason behind the violence that occurred. While finding an answer may be impossible, it is still wise for us to look for causes and most appropriate, to search for solutions.
Many of the contributing factors are likely beyond our control and there is no way for us to prevent them. There are, however, plenty of little things that we do or can do that affect others more than we realize. For example, all of us should be quick to distinguish between what is friendly teasing and what teasing torments our peers. It may have lost some significance, having been repeated so often on the news and in health classes, but it is important to treat others with respect. We never know when we may cross the line and, though not meaning to, be a source of torment to someone else. We all need to become more sensitive to what crosses the line when interacting with others. It is for our benefit, as well as others, that we do this.
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After all, as we celebrate graduation and prepare to move on, we are also coming down from our high school pedestals and entering a new reality. Regardless of whether our plans include college, the military or the work force, we will quickly find ourselves at the bottom of the barrel. We are all at risk of being criticized in the next months and years because we will be new to the job. Our reactions to these possible hardships are important. As preparation, we should be sensitive now and exemplify acceptance always.
You know, I can't personally comprehend what would drive someone to attack his classmates. I can only speculate that such students were not so fortunate as to have an attentive friend or acquaintance to come to their rescue on days when suffering from a sense of alienation. If ignored, they are more likely to turn to those who do give them attention, in whatever destructive form that might take. Recent events have shown that disregarding these people or ignoring them is too great a risk for us to take. We need to give greater thought to our actions in order to increase the odds that our community will avoid the outbreaks that other high schools have experienced.
The thing is, that the need to learn sensitivity to the feelings of others does not end with school. Up until now, school has just been the common link between us, a place where we can practice these behaviors together. From here on out we separate. But that doesn't mean that we will no longer have anything in common. No matter what our line of work, whether it's a Tree farmer or life-saving doctor, a skilled carpenter or guiding teacher, maybe you're the latest computer genius or a caring social worker, a trusty mechanic or brilliant researcher. You might work in a restaurant or in an office or at home. It doesn't matter which path each of us pursues. Despite differences in our futures, what we have in common is our interaction with others. We will share in the lives of co-workers, neighbors, friends, parents, siblings, and eventually, our children. It's important that we be sensitive to the feelings of each of these persons, particularly when no one else is.
Although the ways in which our peers choose to solve their problems is not entirely within our control, we should nevertheless consider ourselves contributors to their lives. Our definition of success ought to be more than merely achieving financial or social goals. A successful life needs to include compassion and concern for others.
This sounds a lot like what our parents and teachers have been telling us since kindergarten. Though the lessons were taught years ago, the past year has made them more significant. By recognizing the needs of others around us, we will ultimately be bringing safety to our communities, one person at a time.