Doing the Right Thing at Any Age
Two weeks ago, the media reported on a disturbing incident that occurred at Winterberry Charter School, an elementary school in Anchorage, Alaska. Officials at the school were alerted to a plot that had been put in motion by three first grade students. The children set out to poison another first grader in the hopes of ending the child’s life. They planned to do this by using the silica gel packets found in their sealed lunches and hide them in the victims’ food to be ingested. Only when another first grade student discovered what was going to happen, they alerted a teacher who took immediate action and stopped this terrible incident.
First and foremost, silica gel packets are not poisonous. Please don’t stress about your children accidentally swallowing one. If they do, they’ll be fine…. But that’s not the point. What is disturbing is that these students in Alaska collectively decided to take such horrific action against another. The lack of understanding about what they wanted to do is alarming to say the least.
On the other hand, I wish I had the opportunity to know more about the student who took action to stop this from happening. The media can only provide so much on the grounds of child confidentiality, so I have no information on the student who told the teacher about this plot. Whoever this child is, they should be commended for what they did, and we as a community should take notes on what to do in our own lives.
Everyday we read about events that occur in our world. Tragedies involving active shooter violence, suicides, and other kinds of horrific incidents. Oftentimes, these terrible situations take the community off guard, with the media playing interviews of neighbors, friends and family expressing their shock at what transpired. Ultimately, however, one or two will admit “I knew something was different about him/her, I just didn’t know what….”
That’s where it starts. We know something is wrong and we want to say something or do something about it. But our lack of empowerment takes over. We begin to doubt what we are seeing or feeling as genuine. We begin to think that we’re just overreacting. We start to wonder what other people will think of us if we make a fuss over nothing. We look the other way. Most of the time, nothing happens. Sometimes though, tragedy.
It’s fitting that a young child didn’t have such inhibitions. They typically don’t care what people think of them. Watch a few next time you are out in public, and try to picture yourself doing and saying the things that they are. Children have an amazing ability to genuinely care about their own world, but juxtaposed through a selfless manner. Author Brene Brown once wrote, “shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” And that seems to make sense in this situation. We adults don’t act because we are so afraid of being judged. A child has no fear, because they have no shame. As such, they didn’t think about whether what they were doing might be overreacting, or miscommunication; they just recognized that the tiniest possibility that someone might be harmed by others was morally wrong, and they resolved not to let that happen.
Next time you are wondering whether you should take action on something, think about what a child would do if they had the same problem. I guarantee their solution would be the right one.
Jason Wells is the President and Founder of the National Advancements for Proactive Safety, an educational non-profit organization committed to providing a safe community through intervention processes. He is a former Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, and holds a Masters of Science with highest honors in Strategic Security and Protection Management. Mr. Wells is currently pursuing his doctorate in Strategic Security with a focus on proactive interventions to stop threat-related behavior. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.