Baptism of Fire

She met me at the door Tuesday afternoon. And the look on her face told me something was gravely wrong.’I want to go back tomorrow’, she said. And I wondered what she meant. It is her first full week of high school this week. Now a small fish in the big pond. At first she was unsure about the choice of school. ‘Give it a year,’ we said, and she agreed. No point forcing things. Over the years I’ve discovered it’s a bit like martial arts, work with the energy, not against it. But over the past five days she was growing to love the school and what it offered. And how wonderful the teaching staff were. On the very first day she came home saying, ‘I think I’ll stay ‘til Year 8 now Mum’. And I smiled. Work with the energy. A couple of days later, ‘I’d like to stay to Year 9 or 10 now, they do exchanges you know, to Japan. I’d really like to do that’. ‘Let’s’, we said.

But Tuesday was different. I hadn’t heard the news yet. Two boys, a fight, a knife, one in hospital, the other under arrest. Fifteen and sixteen years old. In the playground at lunch. What tragedy would drive young men, not much more than children, to do this? And she witnessed it all. The blood. The screams. My heart broke. A baptism of fire. She tells me she was only ten metres away. Thank God it wasn’t a gun. But these things just don’t happen here, do they? They went into lockdown and kids started vomiting. The whole school in shock. Fortunately the boy will live. But many lives affected. So we walked and we talked, and we felt these things together. Working through the shock. And we continue to talk as she wants to. Allowing her to feel these feelings for as long as she needs to. Uncomfortable feelings, yes. And of course there is always the temptation to shut them down or bottle them. But in my experience, that’s never the best way through. Always better to feel them, observe them until they pass.

This experience gave her the perfect out, the one she had been looking for only days before. An opportunity to move schools. But even through the shock and horror of what she had seen she wanted to stay. I was so proud of her strength and certainty. And once again, I witnessed how an experience that takes us to the very edge of our mortality can bring sharply into focus what it is we really want, and what is important to us…

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