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What can we do? Twenty first-grade children are dead in Newtown, Conn., slain by a 20-year-old man with an assault rifle.

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The man, Adam Lanza, shot and killed 26 people in the Sandy Hook elementary school First, he killed his mother at home, where the two lived, then he drove her car to the school and broke in.

Lanza took his guns from his mother. She was an avid gun user.

He was said to be painfully shy and ill at ease around other people, as well as an honor student.

Twenty of those killed were first graders, ages 6-7. The other six were adults in the school – the principal, the school counselor and four teachers.

Lanza shot himself at the end of his spree, using a handgun, police said. By that time, he had fired hundreds of rounds inside the school, reloaded his assault rifle several times with cartridges that each contained 30 shots, police said Sunday.

The tragedy, coming a few days after a shooting in an Oregon mall, (as well as lesser known shootings around the country,) and not all that long after a young man shot up a movie theater on the outskirts of Denver, has gripped the nation’s attention.

These were children.

It is difficult to know what to do. How can we possibly react positively to such a massive breakdown of our society?

Connecticut is a long ways from Nebraska, but we can send a few dollars their way. To see how, click HERE.

And we can take better care of one another.

That we can do, no matter how we feel about the firestorm of debate that is erupting about gun control.

A few days ago, as I was writing a report about graffiti around town, I interviewed Dave Lund, a counselor in North Platte for more than 27 years. I wasn’t able to include Dave’s thoughts in the print paper because of space limits, but what he said couldn’t be more timely, today.

(Lund does not perceive a lot of a gang activity in town. He hasn’t made a study, but his estimation is at most 2-3 percent of youth are involved.)

Lund, who is currently a therapist at Cornerstone Counseling in North Platte, said it is key to help youth grow not just a healthy body and a good mind, but a healthy self image.

He said scouting, church groups, athletics and music programs are relatively plentiful in North Platte, and are great things for kids. And he said mentorship programs make a tremendous amount of difference.

Healthy adults who are a role model and give guidance to kids about how to spend time and be involved -- that’s invaluable.

“What we become is based on what we are involved in,” he said. “It defines who we are becoming,” Lund said of young adults. He could be talking about us all.

Of course, a young person’s self-concept and identity is troubled if they have difficulties that cause them to withdraw. Solitary time is important, but you have to be with people to feel loved, and healthy.

Those who begin to identify themselves as rejected and troubled, and seek the company of similar people -- naturally become a gang member in the making, Lund said.

And of course, there is naturally the possibility of an isolated soul who can get extremely angry and seek to make noise. In the worst case, deafening noise.

With any sign of behavioral problems, there is usually advance warning in earlier years, Lund said. Some patterns emerge by ages 9-12. And it is relatively easy to change that pattern, because children are constantly changing as they grow.

Not that such situations are confined to children, or only to young adults. Anyone can be troubled. Many of us remember the seeming rash of adults who “went postal” in previous decades, shooting up distribution centers.

Nearly every religion calls on us to respect one another -- and respect ourselves.

That can be difficult to do, given the competition amongst us for attention, love, resources and financial success.

But there are times and places for us to show each other that we see, we understand and we care. There are times and places to show each other that we are friendly souls traveling through the world, and even if we compete sometimes, we are much more than competitors.

We need to be sure such times are part of our lives.

Even a few kind words can make a lot of difference. A few kind words regularly given can make a bigger difference. And a few respectful, loving talks can make all the difference.

For the sake of 26 people who were gunned down for no good reason in Connecticut...for the losses of that small community – a town the size of North Platte...for the aching despair of their family and friends…reach out. Make time to show yourself, to let others show themselves, and to care.


For more about the shooter, click HERE.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 12/16/2012
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