By Zack Newkirk ’22
Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Empathy is something we can all get better at. Whether that means trying to see someone’s background or reaching out to let them know that they are loved. The truth is, empathy is a rare thing in the world today, the result of which being a severe outbreak of violent acts. Acts that are a call to the world for change. Most people hardly acknowledge a call for something to change. A change that would result in a community where everyone loves everyone. There are already small communities like this, such as Regis Jesuit, where we strive to love everyone.
Some acts that have been committed due to lack of empathy have hit close to home for Coloradans. In 1999 the Columbine shooting seemed to change security within schools, but did it really change how the people inside schools interact with each other? Aaron Stark, who attended Denver North High School in 1996, tells a powerful story of his childhood and what drove him to the point of almost becoming a school shooter. Stark was surrounded by drugs, hatred, and isolation throughout his childhood, so these were the only things he ever knew. He shares his feelings in a very powerful TED Talk called “I Was Almost A School Shooter”, that brings him to tears. Stark lived a troubled life at home, he moved around a lot due to the fact that his parents were always running from the law, and his parents constantly telling him he was worthless.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t any better for him at school, Stark was constantly bullied by his fellow classmates for his obesity and never settling down at one school. “If someone tells you you’re worthless enough, you will believe it,” Stark said in his TED Talk. With all these people telling him this, he finally snapped. He later says that he had everything set in place, including a gun, and was planning on shooting up his school or a mall’s food court. What changed his life was when his only friend, whose name was not mentioned in the video, brought him over to his house and fed him dinner. “He treated me like a normal human being, which was something I don’t think I’d ever felt in my life,” Stark said.
For someone like Aaron Stark, who had never been loved in his life, a friend made the biggest difference in his life and prevented a horrific act. Even Stark’s parents did not care for him and social services were no help to him. At one point, Stark even called social services but, his parents were experienced in dealing with the government and easily blew smoke in order to avoid the situation. In the car ride home, his mom told him, “Next time you should do a better job and I’ll buy you the razor blades.” This comment, that his mom made, is indicative of what he had to come home to for years. It saddened him to his core and left him more devastated than he had ever been before. Although Aaron was surrounded by drugs, hatred, and isolation, a friend who treated him like a human being prevented him from doing something sinister.
His situation is one that we can all learn from because it doesn’t just fall on the kids at school to treat people right, but the parents and families, who children go home to every night. Reaching out to people, or any simple gesture, can make a great difference. Especially when that person has never known what it is like to be cared about. We can all take advice from Aaron and strive to be like his friend who made all the difference in the world. As students and adults at Regis Jesuit we should be dedicated to helping people who are in less fortunate situations than us. We should be reaching out to others and making everyone at our school feel loved.
The TED TALK