While in Salt Lake City this week, I read and watched coverage of the aftermath of the Trolley Square mall shooting. The eighteen year old shooter seemingly had no motive, and his parents and the victims families and friends were dealing with the additional grief of trying to find a reason for the senseless tragedy.
One comment from the shooters father caught my attention. He said he didn’t know what his son was doing, that his son didn’t talk to him. The young man had become increasingly isolated.
Most of us have lived through enough tragedies to recognize the pattern. The patterns of isolation–parents losing touch with their kids–was a major factor in the Columbine tragedy. It is a familiar theme.
What are parents to do?
There are no easy answers, but there is an obvious one: concerned parents, friends and teachers must seek relationship, rather than wait for it. Expressing an interest in the life of someone who has no interest in sharing anything about his or her life is difficult, but the challenge shouldn’t prevent the attempt. As people become isolated, they become increasingly prone to any number of demons ranging from addiction to the extreme cases of violence.
We were meant to live in community, and separation from community is dangerous not just for the isolated person, but for the community at large.
How does one “seek relationship.” It begins with a genuine interest in the other person, expressed frequently, and followed with a willingness to spend time with the individual.
Seeking relationship with angry, addicted or even hostile family members is trying, and even risky. But it is never as risky as allowing isolation to engulf a person we care for.