Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Virginia Tech and Old Memories

A few months after the Columbine massacre, The Onion ran an article with the headline “Columbine Jocks Safely Resume Bullying.” As someone who had felt marginalized at points of my school career, I certainly did identify with the feeling of isolation Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were said to have felt even though I couldn’t fathom their “remedy.” High school allowed that feeling of isolation to subside as I made some new and lasting friendships, and by college, I was used to the idea of hanging out with friends and had almost forgotten those years in middle school when my social activities consisted of writing computer programs.

How quickly we forget. After starting college, there was a student I will call Aaron Wolf (not his real name) who would visit our freshman floor fairly often. Wolf quickly became an object of ridicule, and it wasn’t long before he stopped coming to our floor. Not too long after his visits stopped, I saw DZ talking to Wolf at our student center. As DZ walked back to our table, some started making fun of him for talking to Wolf. This didn’t deter DZ. After another instance in which he talked to Wolf, I asked DZ how he knew Wolf. His response was telling. He didn’t know Wolf. He mentioned that in high school, there was a popular girl who used to talk to him and other students who weren’t the popular ones. He told me she was “really cool” for doing that and wanted to try to be like that to other people.

When moments like the Virginia Tech massacre happen, we remember the victims and worry about how to prevent events like this from happening in the future. I can’t and won’t speculate on whether being kinder to others would reduce the frequency of future shootings. Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions, and we shouldn’t blame the recent deaths or any others on the people who ignored some kids. It would be unfortunate if the only motivation for being kind to someone was the fear of future reprisal. That said, it doesn’t take much effort to be kind to others, especially people we barely know.

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