As I heard about the tragic deaths of students and teachers in Florida, who lost their lives to a teenaged gunman, firing in yet another school on American soil, my heart was so grieved.
My heart goes out to all of those who lost loved ones and family members in tragic terrorist attacks.
On the news, we see angry and distraught parents, students, educators, law enforcement, and politicians trying to make sense of gun control, safety in the classroom, and how our schools can be safe again.
We are used to fighting terrorism from a foreign enemy different than us, but what about an enemy who lives amongst us?
Think about it — the new terrorists could be one of the kids in our neighborhood currently attending our child or grandchild’s school.
We can no longer ignore the reality. All of the recent mass-murder shootings have underlying motivations caused by some kind of prior trauma.
Our children are hurting.
When people hurt, they usually hurt others.
Studies show that children who have been victimized are more likely to become victimizers. If they don’t know how to deal with their pain, then others around them suffer.
I think most of us feel inept as to what we can do about this situation. We hear about superficial and temporary fixes like gun control and extra security, but the reality is that there is something deeper than just creating lock downs and gun laws.
Creating Creative Cultural Change
We need to find creative, effective solutions, so that youth have a way to express their pain in creative ways that release their pent up anger without violence.
For example, a group called the Freedom Writers Foundation is a non-profit organization created to inspire young, underprivileged students to pick up pens instead of guns.
Erin Gruwell came up with this program when she was a teacher in an inner city high school in Long Beach, California.
After the Los Angeles riots in the early nineties, she radically changed her career path. Until then, she had wanted to be a lawyer and go to law school. After the riots, and the terror associated with these acts of violence, she decided that she could be so much more proactive in a classroom than reacting to the violence in a courtroom.
One of our dance instructors, Fred Vassallo who teaches hip-hop here at Bethel church, works with troubled teens in one of Redding’s public high school, by teaching them dance in an after school program.
The Principal of the school he works shared with him that those who take his classes are more well adjusted, and have improved their emotional and social wellbeing and connections the most in their school system.
Another friend of mine, Teresa Goyne, has worked with traumatized and troubled teenagers in San Francisco for years. She teaches them culinary arts in a theatrical restaurant called Old Skool Café, in which these students learn about caring for people in serving meals, expressing their creativity in dance and acting, as a caring and skilled staff in life skills mentors them
Creating Creative Hope
I was speaking in Marysville, Washington area only two months after a 14 year-old Native American boy shot and killed a classmate, and wounded several others before shooting himself in his High School.
As I was picked up from the airport, the pastor told me how the church and community were in deep grief over the shooting.
I asked Holy Spirit why I was there at this time, and He kept telling me to paint a picture of a horse running through the mist at midnight.
So, the following night during worship, I painted this scene, and felt led that this painting was to go to the shooter’s family.
One congregant had been ministering to this family and said that the family kept hearing horses outside their door, but when they opened up the door, there was nothing.
Five months after the painting was given to the family, this congregant was checking in with the family, and found that the shooters younger brother had been dramatically impacted by the painting.
After the shooting, he had been mercilessly ostracized and ridiculed for his older brother’s actions.
He would come home every day and stare at my painting, knowing that God would give him courage and that he would run his race, no matter the pain. The boy said it kept him alive.
One of my husband and my friend’s granddaughter was one of the victims on February 14th in Florida.
As he went to grieve with his family, I gave him one of my paintings to give to the grieving parents and relatives entitled, Lovely, a picture of a rose, representing the way God sees us.
I had the privilege of going to Rwanda and working with 50 genocide orphans who were ravaged by the massive 1994 Genocide.
As they encountered God’s healing power through my Create To Be Free course, creatively telling their stories of trauma through art, dance, writing, photography, and other creative outlets, they were able to let go of the trauma, forgive those who had performed these atrocities, and find the love of Christ.
I have found that whether a person has experienced adverse childhood events (ACE’s) in Rwanda or Redding, California, people can be free of the bitterness and resentment that fuels the anger that leads to wanting to make others pay by hurting them.
Creating A Creative Plan
As we grieve as a nation, as parents, students, and as a Christians, we have to ask God how we can make a difference, and how we can create a change like Freedom Writers, Teresa Goyne, or Fred Vasallo do through their creativity strategies.
Here are 3 practical steps you can take to create hope and make a difference in the world around you:
- Ask God how your creative passion can help mentor or coach other troubled teens or children who don’t have anyone to believe in them.
- Ask God how you can support the schools or teen centers around you. Maybe it’s through art, photography, dance, or culinary expressions of creativity.
- Ask God to give you an anointing to bring healing through what you create, and as you assist others in creating.
Certainly, our educators and psychologists need wisdom to help our children to process through the emotional and relational pain of prior trauma, but we can make a difference as well as Creatives.
What the world needs now is innovative creative strategies to create environments in which our children learn to process early childhood trauma through creative expressions that bring healing and wholeness.
It’s time to systemically turn the evil of trauma into good, so that our children are raised not going to school, wondering if their life will be taken, but dreaming of a life of wholehearted living, in which life is lived to the fullest in the context of a loving, caring community.
Our children are our legacy and they are our future, let’s begin to give them creative ways that their pain and hurt can become their greatest message, rather than their grave.
Remember, you are Born to Create.
Let’s be the creative change in someone’s life today. It’s what the world needs now!