It's the last day of May 2022. We've had 27 school shootings and 212 mass shootings.
The collective grief and disbelief are still palpable days after 19 innocent children and 2 teachers were shot dead while at school, in an institution designed for growth, exploration, and connection.
What is going on?
When will Americans have enough and stand together so that no one is left feeling less than, inadequate, unloved, unseen, unheard? What will it take to erase the separation and divide we inflict so cruelly upon each other because of a difference of opinion, clothing, education, religion, gender, or any other made-up reason?
We are not separate from each other. We drink from the same water that clouds the skies and falls to earth to nourish us. We breath from the same air that shifts with the winds across the sands and seas. We are made of skin and bones and water and air - beautiful works of art that allow us to do and be.
To do and be is our greatest gift. And we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And when we allow ourselves to truly connect with one another and rise above our fear, our anger, our righteousness, we can access true freedom, happiness, and life worth living.
Connection is the key. Finding ways to mesh the cross-sections of America together see, hear, and learn from each other is one way to bring us together.
That's the idea behind the Gap Year Project novel.
It's not just a story about a privileged girl from New York with no worries about money, college, work, and friends who goes on a life-altering gap year to find herself. It's really the story of bringing people from every walk of life together to work towards a common goal of making one community, one stranger's life, one tiny part of the world a little better and in the process building a longer table instead of higher fences.
If the idea that a wildly popular national community service program could bring us closer so that we no longer fear each other but respect and celebrate our commonality and differences and give us the social, emotional and physical tools to work through the challenges, isn't it worth a try?
Maybe if this young, troubled teen had a chance to experience something greater than himself, in a safe and caring environment, with access to mental health services he would have made different choices in his life - ones that lifted him up and those around him instead of destruction and obliteration.