An Open Letter to the Youth Changing our World
It has to start with thank you, right?
I mean, how can it start anywhere else?
Since February 14th you’ve filled our hearts with hope after they broke alongside yours. You’ve inspired and educated through debate and discourse. You’ve pulled us in and brought us together as though we were all little worlds gripped by the gravity of your star.
Maybe that’s why saying thank you for this feels a lot like describing the sun as bright -- honest and necessary and most of all, woefully insufficient.
I’ll never forget the moment I learned Marjory Stoneman Douglas existed. I was stopped at a red light on my way home from school and my friend texted me three simple words:
It happened again.
It’s a unique brand of fucked up that we both knew he didn’t have to explain what “it” was.
I asked where and he told me a high school in Parkland, Florida and I damn near lost it. I knew the count. For the 17th time in 2018 someone had gone into an American school and used a machine designed to take life away as a tool to do just that.
At that red light I didn’t know how many people were hurt, I didn’t know the gun that was used, I had never heard of Parkland - I had never even been to Florida.
But damn. This one tore me the fuck in two.
I think there’s a point in growing up where you get better at getting bad news -- not because it hurts any less, but because you understand how it goes -- and up until I got that text I was very sure I had reached that point.
It starts with a shock that makes time stop. It’s numb. You can’t move, you can’t understand what you’re hearing, you don’t want to deal with any of it but doing anything else feels meaningless.
Then there’s the outrage - which is great and awful and empowering and exhausting all at once.
And then the rage abandons you and there’s a heavy kind of quiet that settles in and wraps around you like the worst blanket that could ever exist as you start to realize that not only can you not stop dealing with it, but you also can’t do a damn thing to change it.
Then days go by, the hurt becomes your new normal and the hardest lesson in it all is that the world stays the same - there’s just less in it.
Somehow though, this news felt worse than all those times before it - this news hurt in a way that felt hopeless.
So I did what I always do when my heart hurts and feels hopeless: I drove around for an hour and wrote a shitty poem and bought a bottle of whiskey and then went home and did my best not to cry all the while knowing damn well that I was going to cry whether I wanted to or not.
By the time I had my shit together enough to turn on CNN and see what was happening, you were already talking about how the world was going to change because of this.
You didn’t even need to see a sunrise to know that you were choosing hope.
How the fuck could I choose to do anything else?
The first thing I did was finish my whiskey. The second thing I did was call my mom and tell her that this one is the one. This time was going to be different. This time things would change and never be the same again.
And the only reason that had a chance to be true is because of you -- you made it different because you turned your rock bottom into hope for us all.
Anyone who reads this needs to take a second to appreciate how uniquely fucking awesome that is. These are kids.
Kids who have endured something no one should ever have to, kids who - in the aftermath of the worst moment in their lives - have been hammered by the NRA and right wing conspiracy theorists. Kids who are talking to celebrities and presidents and are mourning and yet are somehow hanging on all while becoming the faces of change for a generation.
That’s mental. And inspiring. And heartbreaking. And beautiful. And devastating. And I’m so deeply grateful that I get to share this planet with all of you.
We keep saying you are going to change the world, we keep saying that you are the ones who history will remember as the reason gun laws change in America -- and make no mistake, I believe with all the inches that exist within my heart that’s true.
But to say you will change the world also feels deeply wrong. The truth is you already have.
You shifted the hearts and minds of a generation like time lapsed tectonic plates -- massively, meaningfully, and irreversibly.
You taught us that hope can always be found, even in the most impossible of places, if we open our eyes and let ourselves see it.
But maybe most of all you showed the world that their voices could be heard no matter who they are or where they come from and that even though policies may change slowly, the power to be the reason that change exists is more than just a tired cliche.
For all that you’ve done, all that you’re doing, and all that you are, thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Nothing to this point and nothing that comes after is possible without you.
Those two words will never be enough. But they’re all that I had, and they’re all that I’ve got.
Love always -- because love always wins,
Photograph courtesy: Marchforourlives.com