When Not if

You know enough about me by now to know that I believe in the power of words. I think a lot about words, how we use them, and what impact they have.

I believe our words have the power to change the world.

As I’m sitting here writing this, I can’t escape two words,  “when”and “if”.

Yesterday, tragedy hit my hometown.

Like so many other communities before us, we were hit by the devastating impact of a school shooting.  Noblesville West Middle School sits in the district where I  worked for three years, where many friends, former colleagues, and their children go every day.

In the midst of frenzied phone calls, texts, and messages from friends and family to check on welfare.  I couldn’t help but think back to a conversation I’d had with my daughter Carmen. 

We were in the van, talking about school shootings.  She told me how she would handle an active shooter in her class and how she’s been preparing for school shootings since she was in first grade.  

She said to me… “Mom, we don’t plan for if a school shooting happens, we plan for when it happens.”

She was twelve years old.

When… not if.

When = certainty 

If = possibility 

The power of these two tiny words is undeniable.

In her mind, an active shooter coming to her school is a certainty, not a possibility.

can’t breathe when I think about it.

I can’t offer a “blog style” answer to what we need to do individually or collectively to stop days like yesterday.  I won’t diminish the hard work being done by individuals on all sides of this issue to try to stop school shootings from happening.

The issue is too big and too complex to answer in a blog.

What I’ll offer is this:  how we choose our words when talking about school shootings will determine how quickly we get to HOW  we solve the problem. 

When we change our words, we change our mindsets.  When we change our mindsets we’re able to have the kinds of conversations that must happen about painful, polarizing topics like school shootings.

My challenge to you today is to think about your words and choose them carefully. 

I believe, if we’re careful with our words,  we can change a when to an if, and an if to never again.

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