Remember how I was bragging a few weeks ago on my little 6th grade girls’ choir? I had introduced them to a new song I wanted them to sing for their spring concert, and the next time I went back to rehearse it the sweet little stinkers had learned it cold. Memorized it. In harmony. In latin.
It’s a pretty piece, perfect for their young voices. That’s probably why they like it. Today we were rehearsing it again, and I reviewed the meaning of the lyrics with them:
Pié Jesu, pié Jesu…Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
Merciful Jesus…Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, grant them peace.
The song was written in memory of the children who died in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. My 6th graders were born 10 years after that event, and none of them even knew what happened. Without going into great, traumatic detail, I described it to them. They weren’t cool to the horror of it–there were several “oh, no!” and “how awful” comments, but as I watched them react I was all too aware that this was their world. After Oklahoma City came Littleton, and the World Trade Center, and on and on.
These little girls have never lived in a world without our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or without school lockdown drills, or without concrete barriers in front of federal buildings, or without security lines at airports. Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi…
Tonight I came home from choir practice, changed clothes, and scrolled through Facebook. Another one of the cadets who was at Riverside when I was there is gone. He was just a kid in his early 20s, and he was suffering from PTSD. He was a tough young man on the outside with a real brain and a real heart. He and I had one of those student-teacher standoffs (because I’m the world’s strictest study hall teacher) that led to me seeing him (if you’ll pardon the cliche,) as a diamond in the rough. After that day I couldn’t help but smile when I saw him, and it didn’t take long for him to figure out that I meant it.
So tonight, Baker, I’m praying for you. Merciful Jesus who takes away the sins of the world, grant you peace. I’m sorry that this world was too ugly, that it hurt you, and that we couldn’t keep you. You made me see it differently once upon a time; you made me look at it through your eyes, and you gave me new eyes to see you and cadets like you.