- Cullman, Alabama

December 30, 2012

COLUMN: Children need to know worth, value

By Chris Van Dyke
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Today I find myself crying in my office at 7:30 am. I just read a letter from John, a six year old best friend of Jack Pinto, one of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. What touched me the most was the picture attached. It was of Jack and John walking together an arm around the other’s shoulder as first grade friends often do. The letter said in big uneven letters that Jack was his best friend, John misses him and he will talk to him in his prayers. So simple and innocent… 

When innocence becomes a target in our society, we can’t ignore our problems. We have many that need to be addressed. One that is fundamental to this tragedy is that too many of us do not value human life. History shows us how the value of human life has waxed and waned over the years and empires of the past. It is waning again now not because of war, hardship or disease but because of what we teach ourselves.We have taught our children that we exist by accident. We hear daily that our existence is harming the planet, and hurting the animals. When these opinions are treated as fact, we also teach that humans have no intrinsic worth. In fact, we are implying that people are a problem and we are waiting for some natural disaster or plague to solve it for us. 

The lack of value for other humans is transmitted in our culture through high definition first person shooter video games that desensitize people to committing mass murder, and entertainment that promotes solving problems with violence. Then there are the educational programs that ridicule the idea that we have a creator while insisting that we are here by accident of nature to the detriment of the planet. We all need to examine how we allow human life to be seen as disposable.

We all need a purpose, to be worth something. I believe that we all have value and a purpose for good, whether we fulfill it or not. Often, mass murderers are seeking to be valued as well. Even if they are only remembered as another killer, they seek to be remembered. Preventing the killing of more innocents means promoting the value of human life and teaching ourselves and our children that every person has a purpose for the good of other people. By this I do not mean promoting self-esteem, which is easily misguided. What our children need to hear is that they have worth because they exist for a purpose. They exist to do something of value that will make the world a better place. That is the best violence prevention we can have.  

* Chris Van Dyke is Executive Director Mental Healthcare of Cullman.