I received some touching words in an email from a colleague in the School of Education at Virginia Tech yesterday. After describing some about the tragedy, he said something meaningful that I thought I would pass on. He said this:

“We are reminded from time to time, as John Donne wrote, that none of us is an island. We are all part of a main, and when part of it falls away, we are the less. I feel very much that way right now, and I know that this wider community of academics can sense it too.

The deaths today are tragic indeed, and it makes the loss of the lives of innocents – claimed in equally horrific ways in other parts of the world – that much more immediate. We sometimes lose that sense of connection in our day-to-day grind. Each of the lives lost in those ‘far away’ places has as much value as each person who died today at Virginia Tech, and they each have families that experience as much grief as ours do now. I, for one, would do well to remember this more often. Perhaps it would motivate us all to seek meaningful peace in places of conflict.

Such events remind me, too, that I must make time to reach out to those about whom I care and simply tell them, 'Hi - you are important to me, and thanks for being my friend.' There is no guarantee of tomorrow, and the chance to say such things is not assured." As I think about the loss and the sorrow, I feel sad. I feel a greater need to reach out to those who I care about. I feel a greater desire to participate in reaching out beyond my comfort zone and contributing to community organizations that help people who are lonely, confused, and distraught. I'm not sure what the solution ultimately might be to avoid these horrific situations. I do appreciate the efforts of people like those who work with ChoiceSkills, an organization that seeks to help kids of all ages learn more about fundamental thinking skills, character education and social skills by integrating these topics into any subject - and I hope efforts like these are more widely promoted and more succeessful in helping us learn how to live with each other in peace. On that web site, I found this poignant statement, which I think I will end this blog with: At the end of World War II, Winston Churchill wrote:

"Mankind has never been in this position before. Without having improved appreciably in virtue or enjoying wiser guidance, it has got into its hands for the first time the tools by which it can unfailingly accomplish its own extermination."

Since he wrote those words, the march of science has pierced the innermost secrets of the atomic world, has plunged travelers into the outer reaches of space, has deciphered the genetic code, and has made instant communication possible with almost any spot on the globe. Similar progress may be observed in medicine and every other field of technological endeavor. Yet, though the need has increased exponentially, man still has not improved appreciably in virtue nor do we enjoy wiser guidance.

What the future holds is yet unclear, but one thing is glaringly obvious. Unless the rising generation can somehow surpass the present in both virtue and wiser guidance, the future is in doubt."