By Tom Kane
The life of Rachel Joy Scott, who died in the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, has inspired communities all over the globe to respond to her challenge for us to treat each other with kindness.
Everyone, it seems, is buzzing about “Rachel’s Challenge,” a national school program aimed at opposing bullying in schools. High school senior Rachel Scott, the first student killed at the infamous Columbine school massacre in 1999, has been lauded because of a revealing journal she kept that is similar in some ways to the diary discovered after the death of Anne Frank.
After Rachel’s death, her parents were jarred when they read her journal. In it, she wrote she had a premonition that she would not live long but that her life would affect millions. The message of her writing was that, if people were compassionate and kind to each other, it would start a “chain reaction of kindness.”
It was discovered that she had befriended several bullied students in her school and, in one instance, had caused a persecuted student to refrain from committing suicide.
Her family started “Rachel’s Challenge” after reading her journal, and it continues to be presented in schools all over the country.
We can be aware and sensitive to the poverty among us that is somehow hidden in our neighborhoods. For the most part, signs of poverty are there if we look carefully enough.
One sign of the extent of the need is the number of students in our schools who are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals in the school cafeterias. According to statistics from the Wayne Highlands School District, 42 percent of high school students are eligible; 48 percent of the middle school; 53 percent of Lakeside Elementary School; 55 percent of the Stourbridge Elementary School; 37 percent of the Damascus School; and 46 percent of the Preston School.
Income guidelines to qualify are: for a family of four an income of $43,568. This is a median. According to the statistics from the 2010 Census, 10.6 percent of the population of Wayne County is at the poverty level. These are startling statistics.
Too often, we hear people complain about how a poor family is “ruining the block,” instead of asking how those of us on the block can help our less fortunate neighbors. We can at least be friendly and say “hello” to everyone. Just be a good neighbor.
“We see unfortunate people every day who are experiencing hard times because they can’t find a job or have been displaced from their homes,” says Father Edward Erb of Grace Episcopal Church. “Many of these folks have begun to live in abandoned buildings or in old barns,” he says. “It’s really serious.”
Some who attended Rachel’s Challenge are speaking of creating a compassionate Honesdale community. It seems that Rachel has challenged us to look at how we can do more to reach out to those in need, whether it’s a student who’s being bullied or a family that can’t afford to put food on their table.
In addition to our individual efforts, we need to show our compassion by sharing our creative ideas with each other and coming together to make positive changes happen. We also need to educate ourselves about what resources are already available and how we can help enhance them.