Today marks an ominous anniversary and along with many others who grew up near Columbine High School in Colorado, it’s not one I’m soon to forget. Twenty-one years ago today, the lives of so many were changed in an instant. The first student to lose her life was a girl from my church, Rachel Scott. I was a few years older than her, but being from a small church, everyone knew everyone and I had been to her house many times. I knew her mother, Beth much better and loved her for her gentle spirit and her kind heart. Rachel had the same kindness, but also a boldness to live out her faith that still inspires me to this day. Even though I didn’t know her well, her death has impacted me over the years in different ways but the most significant way is that the words that I live by are hers: be brave, be bold, be kind.
Rachel was brave in the face of death. I know some probably hear the word “brave” and might think of visuals like warriors going into battle, but there are other forms of bravery that are more subtle. For me, bravery is a mindset. It’s facing fear, staring it dead in the face, refusing to give in to it and finally triumphing over it. We are currently experiencing an unprecedented time of uncertainty. Chaos reigns. No one knows what life will be like on the other side of Covid-19. How do you plan for something unprecedented? What will happen once we've gone back to work? Will our businesses survive? The unknown is scary! And when things become uncertain, it can be easy to become paralyzed by fear - fear of the unknown, fear of what the future holds, fear of the loss of income, fear of safety. But we have to be brave! We have to overcome our paralysis and keep moving forward. There is life on the other side of this tragedy, just as there is life on the other side of the loss of Rachel. We will never forget but we have to be brave enough to seek after what lies ahead, to plan and prepare the best we can for the changes that are sure to come - but to go boldly in spite of the fear. So, when fear tries to sneak in to freeze you in place, keep your head up. Be brave! Have faith that you can do anything you put your mind to.
Rachel was bold in the way she chose to live and she was bold in her faith. She wrote in her diary that she had few friends in school because she chose to speak the truth by telling others about her love for Jesus. And she was unafraid. She did what she knew was right. When you face a hard fight, when you look fear in the face, can you say the same? Can you be bold, even in the most difficult of circumstances? Rachel was asked if she still believed in God while her killers grabbed her hair as she laid on the floor, bleeding from the first barrage of bullets. She knew she would die. She didn’t hesitate to answer. None of us will likely face what Rachel did, but if she can have such boldness, knowing it would cost her her life, I can also be bold when faced with making decisions that may not be the most popular or that others might not always agree with. For instance, we aren't open in my clinic in Washington state, even though we are considered essential. There are private practice owners who are seeing patients and wonder why I wouldn't choose to do the same. I've chosen what I feel is best for my patients and staff. It's a small thing but I am determined to be bold in the small things just as Rachel was bold when it really mattered. So, when others are talking about ways they’re moving forward and our mentors and friends who mean well tell us the things we should be doing, practice boldness by stopping where you are and quieting the outside world long enough to look inside yourself for what is right. You have to do what’s right for you. Don’t worry about what others are doing or saying. You do you! If you do what you know to be right, you can’t go wrong.
Rachel was truly a kind and compassionate person - a characteristic that she inherited from her mother but it was also something she saw in action in her own household. Rachel learned by example. So, I'll ask you - what example are you setting for those who are watching how you respond during this time? Especially the little people. And believe me, they are watching. As Rachel grew older, she made sure to include others, no matter who they were. When life was filled with cliques and “popular vs. unpopular,” she just saw people who needed a friend. If someone seemed to be having a bad day, she would check in on them to make sure they were okay. As a highschooler, she looked outside herself, an uncommon trait. In fact, she tried to reach out to the boys who would ultimately take her life. She knew they were bullies and had been subjected to them making fun of her in the past. She knew they were outsiders. But she believed kindness could reach them. She had a huge love for people and wrote, “these hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and someday will touch millions of people’s hearts.” Kindness has a way of breaking down barriers. I can’t say I understand how Rachel could reach out to the very ones who were her bullies. Experiencing bullying myself recently, I am in awe of her strength and fortitude - the bravery and boldness it had to take for her to not respond in kind but to reach out in love and kindness is beyond my understanding. But here's one truth we can all keep in mind: kindness helps others. Kindness begets kindness. I will choose kindness. How about you? Reach out to others during this time. Surround yourself with others who can encourage you with words that speak life, love, joy, strength, bravery and boldness into your situation. And know that we are all needing connection and a friendly word of encouragement right now. Your kindness can lessen someone else’s load, too.
Today I choose to remember Rachel for the amazing young woman she was and for the example of bravery, boldness and kindness that her life has become for me and countless others. I will continue to share her story and think of her fondly when challenges arise in my own life. I hope to meet her again one day when I will thank her for how she has helped me and so many others when facing challenges. She was right, her hands have touched millions. And what was meant for evil has been used for good (Gen 50:20).
If you're struggling during this time and need help or just need a friendly word of encouragement, please feel free to reach out to me. I’m glad to help in any way I can.
To read more of Rachel’s story, please visit https://rachelschallenge.org/ You'll read about how her family is helping high school students who are affected by bullying and spreading Rachel's story, far and wide.