Opinion: We all have a role to play in preventing tragedy

Carol Henckel

Carol Henckel

The terrible school shooting on Wednesday, on a day where people are reminded to love one another,  touched all of us. Reading comments before Valentine’s Day, I saw that some chose to celebrate and some saw it only as a shallow commercial form  of greed. We could debate that but for me it goes deeper .  

Spoken today are words of anger and blame. There is finger-pointing everywhere, toward the FBI, Facebook, school personnel, police, acquaintances, mental health providers and gun owners.

The word “blame” is an interesting one. It is considered a marginal modal verb and that is because it is used only in the past tense. Sadly, all of us can identify many reasons for this young man falling through the cracks.

Blame is not a word of action. All of us are a part of this  incident and what happened. We may live in another state but we ARE a part of the solution. We need to be neighbors to everyone, to the person next door who smiles and waves when we see him, to the quiet person who sees no one for days at a time, and even for that angry, cantankerous person you don’t even want to make eye contact with.

A smile or a moment of contact may be the only action that could deter violence.

We need to never leave something alone because of fear. We are the eyes and ears for our law enforcement. As children, we were told not to tattle, but never is that OK for anyone of us when we come across something questionable. Make that call, say something or step up and keep on trying to tell someone your concerns. Do not quit when bureaucracy seems to not hear you. Persistence is important.

Mental illness is a real concern. Having dealt with this in several instances, I know that there can be warning signs or there may be none at all. Some of these parties can be  very manipulative and you may appear to be the unstable person. Do not give up. Keep trying to make your point, not with anger but with vigilance.

We each have to do something when we see something. Instability can be seen intermittently, but getting  help for someone can be daunting. Our mental health facilities need to be equipped with the ability to help all those that are in need.

We also need to determine what is labeled mental illness. If you are on antidepressants, will you be considered or labeled mentally ill? These are all part of the discussion and our goal should be to step forward, tell someone or help find resources for individuals and families dealing with an overwhelming situation.

Gun possession is another discussion we will need to have. It is complex and multifaceted. Answers are not easy. Law enforcement departments are not large enough to see everything, so we need to help be their eyes and ears. Our media devices can help be a part of the solution. If you see something, say something.

Our biggest weapon — and our most important job — is to connect with one another. Pay it forward with kindness. A single action may be our most valuable gift to a troubled soul.

On Valentine’s Day, did you let someone other than your loved ones know that they were worthy of a hello or a smile? If you didn’t, make today and every day a day you make that effort. Be a neighbor to a stranger.

Carol Henckel lives in Park City, Mont.

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