Rachel Joy Scott never questioned her ability to leave an indelible mark on the world. It was a question of when and how. She went so far as to draw her hands on the back of her dresser and wrote “These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of peoples’ hearts.”
Rachel, inexplicably, also knew she’d die young. One year before her death, she wrote about it and said she felt she received all she could from life and thanked the Lord. She spoke to friends and family about it so naturally. She even wrote a poem that eerily foreshadowed her death.
Rachel was the first to encounter Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold that fateful day, April 20, 1999. She was their first victim. Tragically, 12 more would follow. That day inexplicable hate and anger met “Joy.” Out of the unfathomable confrontation, it is Joy that wins. Perhaps not in the literal but in the long term as Rachel truly does continue to touch so many hearts and saves lives through the message she’s left for her family, friends and countless others she met and never had the chance to meet. Columbine High School would never be the same. Colorado would never be the same. School culture period, would never be the same. In a world that now has schools doing live shooter drills and other senseless acts of violence on school campuses continue, there is hope. Hope shines through because of people like Rachel.
I always love my job but never so much as yesterday after attending not one, but two presentations on Rachel’s Challenge – a nonprofit organization started by Rachel’s dad and stepmother because of journals Rachel left behind. As I sat there and learned about this amazing young woman, I realized a few things. One – I truly believe her beautiful soul was a gift from God for all of us. Her time was limited but her message goes on and on, just like that of Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mother Theresa. It may seem cruel that someone so special should be taken so soon but I have faith that God knows what He’s doing and He knew she could make the impact she hoped to by letting herself speak through unedited words of her journals and inspire others to follow suit.
I suppose for any of that to make sense, I should explain more about her message. Rachel, apparently as I learned this second hand, truly believed in the power of kindness and how it can create a chain reaction of others being kind to more people, so on and so forth (think “Pay It Forward”). During both presentations, she was quoted “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.” She believed in looking for the best in people, giving them chances, forgiveness and other qualities all people should be willing to give to each other. She purposely reached out to special needs students, new students and students being picked on. She didn’t want anyone to feel unloved, unwanted or uncared about. Those same folks reached out to her parents after her tragic death. This helped them see the need to create Rachel’s Challenge.
Second – I realized her message, at least in my mind, was God speaking to me. I’ve been “falling off the bandwagon” so to speak in the kindness department. Rachel wrote to her cousin. Rachel advised her cousin to find her true self, her true color and to stick to it; to not let the environment change her. I’ve been letting my environment change my color. I’ve allowed the jerks on the Internet to make me think I need to be more tolerant of poor behavior; that it’s reasonable to be a jerk back to someone who’s mistreated me (in a manner of speaking). I’ve always been a bit naive and like Rachel, prone to trusting people too quickly. I’ve fought off the idea that I need to change that but life and bumps along that highway have jaded me some. I started to think I need to become more hardened and I can’t help but feel this presentation was speaking right to me – to remind me that I’m not wrong. Being politically correct is a good thing, that it’s okay to be naive and to be trusting. Will it always work out? Sadly, no, but I have to be strong enough to not let calloused, cold people change me. I can’t let negative experiences dictate who I am.
Third – in a round about way, I feel Rachel has also reminded me that my life is not a failure. I don’t have to feel badly about my age. You see, Rachel was born Aug. 5, 1981. I was born just two days before…on Aug. 3. She was the middle child of five kids and I was the middle child of three kids. The similarities are eerie in my mind and yet so special. Rachel and I would be 33 together this August. I complain or worry that at my age I haven’t done much or accomplished much or have failed in some way, but knowing a girl, just two days younger than me, was robbed of simply living, gives me much needed perspective. It also reminds me that I still have plenty of time left, I simply have to make the choice.
So what is Rachel’s Challenge? There are five challenges. They are:
• Look for the best in people – eliminate prejudice
• Dream Big (write your goals/keep a journal)
• Choose positive influences (don’t let other change your character)
• Speak with kindness (you don’t know what others are going through)
• Start your own chain reaction
I urge everyone who reads this to visit Rachel’s Challenge. Find out more about who she was and how she continues to positively impact this world. I also urge you all to start your own chain reaction and take part in her challenge. I know I will.