By Maena St. Paul
i was standing in the middle of my church auditorium, rubbing shoulders with high schoolers, middle schoolers, teachers, student ministry leaders, pastors and just some heavy hearts from my community.
we stood together and contemplated that valentine’s day,
a universally understood holiday to love just a little more than usual,
to take what’s been the minimum and increase it tenfold,
in hopes that someone could feel the worth seen in them.
parkland felt the opposite.
we saw what it was like to take love
and drag it through the mud while 17 people were senselessly shot dead.
they woke up that morning,
never having a clue that the most precious thing they could own was about to be stolen from them.
parents and siblings said goodbye without knowing the weight of that single word.
and as we pick up the pieces of what’s left,
i have witnessed a generation hold up their strength and courage like banners on steel poles,
demanding to be seen and honored for their value.
students who have grown exhausted of their voices being shouted over because adults with power have deemed them insignificant, uneducated, and irrelevant.
society has the taken the word “minor”
and somehow made it sound like
but i’ve never been more proud to be a mentor of students who are proving them wrong.
days after our heartbreak tragedy,
i watched as these “minors” organized rallies,
school walkouts, meetings with political officials,
because they knew better than most
that shootings shouldn’t be something they’re afraid to encounter at school.
they’ve done more than anyone could have imagined
and that is not something i’m ashamed of.
if anything, i stand with them.
because in a world that tells them daily that they are not enough,
they are shouting louder than ever that they are.
that they are worthy of being protected and seen and heard.
and for those of us fighting consistently for that kind of truth to be internalized by all,
we carry victory in our hands because maybe this is a step towards freedom.
freedom from the lie that our words cannot break mountains.
that our contribution to this existence begins at 18.
i refuse to believe that anyone is too young to do something that matters.
this is more than gun policy reformation.
this is more than who is allowed in a school.
this is about seeing a human being for every sinew of of intentional purpose that’s been stitched in them.
the list of heroes of this monumental piece of history begins with the 17.
because as painful as it is to live in the midst of their absence,
their lives have broken down another wall of hate and oppression.
they put freedom back in the palms of humanity,
and if that means more rallies,
then we need to make some more room,
because this upcoming generation has something necessary to say,
and they deserve every single ear to stretch at the sound of their voices.