As I sat on the bench, my fingers reached down and traced the letters carved into the stone below. The word “survivors” stood out. I was on the campus of Virginia Tech, and the bench was a memorial to the wounded students who survived the horrific shooting that killed 32 people more than five years ago. My son is among the survivors.
(Photo: Courtesy of Virginia Tech)
Over the past five years, I have thought about the word “survivor” many times. I have thought a lot about it with regard to my son but also with regard to the children and youth ChildFund works with around the globe. It’s a word that applies to them as well.
Many young people who live in extreme poverty encounter “survival” challenges that are so foreign to our daily life here at home that it’s really hard for us to comprehend: HIV/AIDS claiming the lives of parents and leaving their very young children as heads of households, warring political groups forcibly recruiting children as weapons in their battles and devastating droughts killing livestock and crops, destroying all of a family’s food.
I have gratitude beyond measure that my son survived on that April day in 2007. I am also extremely grateful to be able to help many other children and youth survive the sometimes unimaginable challenges that life throws at them.
But I am also greedy. After the surviving is done, I want more. I want children to not only survive but also to thrive. I want them to grow up and have a better life than their parents. I want all of the young people in the world to fulfill their God-given potential – potential that otherwise might slip away if we all don’t work together to give them a hand up.
Surviving and thriving. That sounds good to me.