How Stoneman Douglas Hit Close To Home

How Stoneman Douglas Hit Close To Home

While some might see this as one way I see it in a completely different way.

As writers, we like to focus on certain topics. For me, I have always focused on sports and moments in life that can help others grow as individuals. However, as a writer, you also have to know when to put your topics of choice aside and focus on a more pressing idea. Everyone who knows me knows I love sports and going deep into the information whether it's about Alabama or how Tom Brady defied so many people and continues to do so but this week I think it's time to focus on a different situation. That situation is the school shooting that happened last week in Parkland, Florida.

We have seen the news reports, the Facebook posts and of course most recently the walkouts and before we just look at this as another person telling us what is wrong with America I want you to look at this as something else. I’m not here to say my political affiliation or what we need to do about guns, but what I do want to say is how this hit close to home for me.

Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to call a huge group of friends my close and best friends many of which came from the camp Ramah Darom. Of those friends, many of them are from Florida, particularly the Miami and Boca Raton area. Boca Raton is 15 minutes away from Parkland which is why this story starts to get scary for me. Seeing the news about accidents or certain events sometimes I would just half listen to, but seeing something of this magnitude opened my eyes and my eyes were opened even more after receiving an email from my father.

In the email, my father states how of the 17 victims killed, 5 of the victims were Jewish including a teacher named Scott Beigel, who sacrificed himself for his students. Hearing this made me break down. While I didn’t know these students just thinking of people similar to me losing their lives in something this tragic made me think of all my friends I made at Ramah and how it could’ve been any of them.

One of the victims, Alyssa Alhadeff, was an alum of the Jewish camp Coleman which is a camp near to my camp Ramah Darom. Realizing people who knew and had a connection with her is hard to fathom especially at a young age. After losing one of my campers almost two months ago I still have trouble putting into words how I feel, but for friends or anyone close to Alyssa, this still hurts.

A few days ago one of my good friends from Ramah wrote an article about that day and as I reread the article I can't help but get emotional. Sometimes we forget about certain events but this one will be on my mind even though I didn’t have a direct relationship with the school. When I was 16 in my first soccer game of the year I wrote the name Jack Pinto on one arm and the time he lived on the other. Jack Pinto was one of the children murdered at Sandy Hook and I wanted to honor a victim in a way that I could. Writing this article makes me think back to the time I honored Jack and now I hope I get to honor the victims from Stoneman Douglas.

While the event is in the past it isn’t something we should forget and it will be something I won't forget. 15 minutes away from my friends it still scares me to think about that and while it will take time for the community to heal they need all the help they can get. The more I think about this the more real it gets, and the more I am just left terrified.

Cover Image Credit: ABC / YouTube

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.


Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.


I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.


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