Students at Seattle Preparatory organized a walkout on March 14, 2018 to show support for the victims from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They gathered on the plaza in silence for 17 minutes (a minute for each of the victims). Two students then shared their reflections; below is the reflection of Gabi Jeakle, a junior at Seattle Prep.
“Thoughts and Prayers are not enough.” You many have heard some iteration of this idea in the past few weeks. “Thoughts and prayers do not matter." Do they?
You see, our default after a tragedy is to pray our prayers, maybe debate an issue or two, and then to carry on with our lives. Until it’s time to send thoughts and prayers the next inevitable time.
Looking at all of you standing here reminds me why I love our generation so much. I am so filled with hope. Because we are a generation that values justice for all. And we know that humanity is not a partisan issue. Our right to marry who we love is not a partisan issue. Our right to take refuge for survival in a foreign country is not a partisan issue. Our right to vote, to work, to work for equal pay is not a partisan issue. And our right to go to school free of violence is not a partisan issue. Our right to exist. Our right to be a person is not a partisan issue.
After a tragedy, we ask ourselves, which side are we on? Who will this benefit? Who will this be detrimental for? We ask ourselves, how can we protect our guns? How will the other side use this against us? We barely take time to breathe between tragedies before we begin defending ourselves. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to take action. That’s how we solve problems. But as we take this action, we can forget the cause that we are fighting for. We exploit victims for political gain; we become red vs. blue. We become second amendment vs. gun control. We become parties, not people.
Like many of you, I have spent much of my life in catholic schools, and my main take away has been that God loves us all. That is an indisputable fact. God doesn’t love someone more because of their skin color, or even because they believe in Him or not. He loves us because we are human. He loves us because we deserve respect, and we deserve respect because he loves us. Some of us get that respect in the world. Our job is to make sure everyone does.
We don’t fight for justice because we are liberals or conservatives. We don’t even fight for justice because it directly impacts our lives. We fight because we know it is the right thing to do, and that it will make the world better.
Justice does not have a color. Love does not have a gender. Respect is not defined by prejudices.
So, do our thoughts and prayers matter? When LGBT youth are five times as likely to kill themselves as teenagers who do not identify as part of the queer or trans community. When the average Latina woman makes 46 cents to her white male counterpart’s dollar. When we are standing here today because 17 teenagers were shot at their high school. Do our thoughts and prayers matter?
Of course they do. But we have to give God something to work with, right? In times like this, we fight, and ask God to have our backs while we do it. Thoughts and prayers are awesome, and we need them. Ask God to keep you warm as you’re marching this Saturday. Ask God to give you courage as you speak your mind to someone who disagrees with you. Ask God to give you guidance as you write a letter to your senators. Say a prayer before you go to bed, and then wake up and fight for justice.
We can’t agree on everything. But we're not standing here because we agree on everything. We're here because we believe in humanity, for everyone. Our call to respect does not depend on which political party is in power. Gay or straight, black or white, we deserve respect because we’re human beings loved by God. No matter what angry divisive people tell you, we’re all loved by God. Humanity is not a partisan issue. Your thoughts and prayers matter, but so do you. You matter. If for no other reason than because you are a person and people matter.
Gabi Jeakle is a junior at Seattle Prep.