The e-mail message was direct and devastating: "Davius Boyd, a 4th grader in Mrs. Enos' class, died at approximately 5:45 this afternoon," wrote my principal. "The coroner informed of his death about 40 minutes ago. He had gone to a friend's house to play and apparently a gun was discharged and the bullet struck Davius. He died at the scene."
I remembered a story Davius wrote for me in November.
"One day there was a 1200 year old man named Jam. He was as strong as an ant and he was 50 feet tall. He liked to jump over cars, ride his dirt bike, and drink 800 cans of soda in the air. He would scream, "Woo hoo!" in the air. He would go all the way to the sun and get a really dark tan. Then he would say, "Hey," to the spacemen!
He would take rides with the space men. His face would blow up because he didn't have a mask. He would wake up 5000 years later and ask, "Where is my dirt bike?" If it didn't come, he would cry for 1000 years straight."
I looked out the window. He wanted to be old, strong, and daring like Jam. But life is fragile. The world lost so much creativity, compassion and commitment in the death of one little boy by a single gunshot.
The first of 1,000 years of tears fell in my heart.
I took a quiet walk on a concrete sidewalk near my house. We teach our students the life cycle of butterflies and writing and art and music because we want them to see how the world works and express their thoughts and feelings about it.
We hope their lives and their ideas will make it work better, will make it a more human place for everyone.
"I don't know how the world works," I thought.
I slowed and stopped beside a flower growing through a crack in the concrete sidewalk. Its stem was so frail, yet its face was noble black and its petals were brilliant yellow.
It was growing where it shouldn't grow, vulnerable to a late frost, hard rain or crushing footstep. At that moment in that place, I saw it growing.
Later I wrote:
I found a flower growing through a crack in the concrete sidewalk,
and I knew
the amazing little flower
All children growing up in poverty are noble, beautiful flowers growing through cracks in concrete sidewalks. They are vulnerable to the frost of hunger, the hard rains of sickness, and the crushing footsteps of violence.
Those children would have filled 229 public school classrooms of 25 students each. Because of gun violence, desks now sit empty that might have held the next great scientist or writer or parent for the world.
The CDF encourages us to work for laws that:
● control who can obtain firearms,
● close the gun-show loophole,
● require consumer safety standards and childproof safety features for all firearms, and
● strengthen child access prevention laws that ensure guns in the home are stored safely and securely.
Today, please slow, stop and see students like Davius. Nurture them. Teach them. Work to protect them.
The world works through them.
Trevor Scott Barton is an elementary school teacher in Greenville, SC. He is a blogger for the Teaching Tolerance project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.