Students being gunned down and murdered at school triggers things in all of us. Many of us have been having conversations focused on guns. There is a whole other group of people who aren’t talking about guns, but instead, talking about the experience of exclusion. These are the moms and dads of the “left out” kids, the ones not invited to the birthday parties and sleepovers, who aren’t ever asked to hang out with their peers.
These parents aren’t excusing the behavior of the boy who killed those students. They do offer a perspective that maybe other parents can consider.
For each of these moms and dads, the stories are the same. Many of their own friends’ children excluded their child from birthday parties as early as elementary school. Many of their neighbors hosted get togethers at their homes where their child got to see classmates walking by who only offered them a wave. Most parents of the excluded children will say, “we are all he has.”
Its interesting to note that excluded kids aren’t just isolated from their peers. It seems adults—extended family and family friends, neighbors, coaches and teachers also forgo any opportunity to cultivate a relationship with the left-out children. These young ones are our society’s outcasts.
It’s a painful thing to witness, your child being excluded. It appears the young man in Florida wasn’t part of the “in group” or any group at school. Over and over again, we hear comments from his classmates that paint a picture of a very lonely life. Add mental illness to social isolation, and well, now we know the possibility.
He was adopted, and this past November, at age nineteen, lost his mother to the flu. His father had died ten years earlier. Do you wonder like I do, how his community reached out to support him, when he experienced being orphaned again, which must have created unimaginable anguish? I’d be curious to know what all his neighbors and parents’ friends did to help him. It must have been a terrible time.
The gun conversations will continue, but could we also maybe take a look at ourselves and what we are doing or not doing to help the left-out kids? These parents of outcasts can tell you the exclusion stuff starts early, kindergarten even.
Maybe, if your child has a birthday approaching, you could find a way to include everyone in class. Maybe if you’ve got a quirky kid on your street nobody wants to play with, you could spend some time getting to know them. Maybe teach him how to play chess or just offer her hot chocolate and a listening ear. It doesn’t take much to make a person feel like, well, a person.