CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

December 30, 2013

SOUTHERN STYLE: Silence of the night

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

FAIRVIEW — Well, the biggest part of the holidays are over now. The shopping’s done, gifts that didn’t work out returned, leftovers in the fridge, and torn wrapping paper cleared away. It’s nice to have a quiet night to reflect.

Christmas is such a wonderful time of the year for most people. It’s a time to visit with old friends, enjoy relatives, good food, beautiful lights, and the loving spirit that goes with the holiday.

We have learned, or re-learned, to remind ourselves and others what the day really means. To appreciate the fact that the greatest gift ever to be given to mankind was born in a stable far away in order that we might live to enjoy the earth and it’s bounty, but more importantly, that we might live life eternally in His shadow.

On nights when the cold winds blow and the sky is so clear that it seems you can reach up and touch the stars, twinkling even more brightly than usual, and your breath makes a mist as you walk along the driveway, it gives you time to pause and think about life, what it means and where it’s going.

For many, it will be back to work tomorrow, as usual. Others have new horizons before them; college, marriage, a tiny baby or a new home. Many will retire this year and begin a new chapter in their lives; some will end their journey before another Christmas season arrives.

Not knowing the future is probably a blessing in disguise, although it would be nice sometimes. For one thing, it keeps us on our toes, and to me, that means living as if there were only tonight. Only the time left to say what really needs to be said, to do what I’ve been putting off for too long, and to make love a priority.

So many times we get caught up in things and put people aside. There are always bills to pay, beds to be made, floors swept and trash to be taken out. How much more important are the people in our lives?

I was reminded of all of this today as I wrote an article about Fairview’s upcoming community outreach, Rachel’s Challenge. (You will hear more about this in the coming days).

The little farming community of Fairview, a close-knit group of civic-minded people, has reached out to the rest of Cullman County in an effort to bring people together for a common cause. This cause will affect every one of us in some way, at some point in our lives.

The name of this outreach program is Rachel’s Challenge, and it began with a pair of hands sketched on the back of a child’s bedroom mirror.

“These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott, and will someday touch millions of people’s hearts,” was inscribed on that mirror by the first child to be killed in the Columbine massacre.

I don’t know when she wrote those words, but I can guarantee you that she never foresaw the events that would make her prophecy come true. One thing is certain — she has touched millions of hearts, and is still doing so in the form of Rachel’s Challenge.

This outreach gives children and adults the tools they need to prevent bullying. It has the ability to change the world…

It starts with me. It starts with you. It spreads down the street, across the railroad tracks and into other neighborhoods. It winds down country roads and busy interstate highways. It creeps into local politics and schools and churches. Pretty soon it starts to show up in our federal government and spreads from there to other countries, nations and the world.

That was Rachel Scott’s vision. She wanted the whole planet to come together in love, kindness and compassion. To find the good in everyone, to eliminate bullying and eventually, wouldn’t that eliminate hatred, and ultimately war?

What a concept. But it isn’t new…

It was born in that stable. It was written about in the Bible. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Give and ye shall receive. And the greatest of these is love. Love can move mountains.

It is everywhere, free of charge. It might come in the form of a smile to brighten someone’s life, a kindness so small as the tone of voice in a spoken word, a pat on the back for a job well-done, or a hug at the end of a long day.

It might take the shape of a child welcoming the newcomer at school and making sure that they feel at home. It could manifest itself in someone stepping in to prevent a bully from taking advantage of a younger child. It could start with you…

The Fairview leaders who are bringing Rachel’s Challenge to this area hope to see other schools and churches close their doors Jan. 8, which is a Wednesday night when people are accustomed to meeting for worship and bible study. They hope that your group, class or individuals who are concerned about bullying will make it a point to attend this assembly in the Joe Shultz Gymnasium.

There is really no way to accurately predict the eventual outcome of this community effort, but if just one person takes away from it the tools that it takes to stop a person from someday picking up a gun and walking into a school with the intent to harm our children, then it will have been worth the time it takes to attend this assembly.

If it brings about a radical change that is talked about, spread to neighboring communities and cities, if Rachel’s Challenge continues to be heard and accepted by millions of people, then her life, and the lives of all children who died in such horrendous circumstances will beome a beacon for peace, compassion and kindness.

I know it will probably be cold that night. I know the warm fire in your living room will beckon you home. I know that there is homework to be done, groceries to be put up, and laundry to be started…

But if you knew that by attending this meeting you could start the chain reaction Rachel Scott hoped for would you drop what you are doing and make your way to Fairview Jan. 8?

Maybe there will be a star hovering over the gym that night…maybe a 2,000 year old messenger will shine His light upon this community, and this world again. We need this message, and we need to tell it again, and again, until compassion and kindness reign in our world.

The silence of the voices who can stop this needs to be broken. This message needs to be shouted out from the rooftops all over our county. It needs to be heard loud and clear — break the cycle of bullying, violence and despair. Let our children live in peace and without fear. It starts with you!