Today our youngest daughter called me from school to tell me she was sick and needed to come home. I know the crud is going around, so I rearranged my day and went to get her. She cried and said her head hurt and her nose was runny so we made a quick list of “feel better” items and stopped by the store on our way back to the house. As we were headed home with our chicken and stars soup and Gatorade, Aspen said something that made me realize she was not super “sick.”

“Mom? What happened at that school in Florida? Did someone kill people?”

I was shocked and asked where she heard about that. She told me that her school did a moment of silence and that her teacher briefly explained what happened. To be clear, this is a wonderful school and she has a phenomenal teacher. Details were shared in an age-appropriate way. I might be wrong, but we don’t tell the girls these types of things and they don’t see them because we don’t watch the news with them around. It might be naive of us, but we haven’t quite figured out how to share the ugliness in the world in a way that won’t make them more jaded than young kids need to be. Regardless, she found out, which is OK, and she had questions. She asked if only grownups were killed. Then she asked how old the kids were and if the cops got him. And then she asked why.

I answered everything honestly. I told her there were grownups and students hurt and killed and that the cops got the bad guy. I told her he will go on trial and a judge or jury will decide his fate. But I got stuck on the question of why. The best I could tell her was that some people are sick, mean, hurt and ugly on the inside and they do awful things. I also told her that even though there are bad people, to always remember there are more good people than there are bad. Growing up to be kind, loving and friendly will be the best thing she can do to help fix the world.

As the conversation was winding down, we were pulling into our driveway and decided to check the barnyard. It was a rainy day in Arizona so we like to make sure all the animals are OK. As we pulled around back we saw two of the horses lying down for a mid-morning rest and we decided to take the chance to go love on “her” horse, Charlie. Charlie was happy to see his little girl and soaked up the love, petting and scratches. He closed his eyes and kind of melted into Aspen and she melted right back. I snapped a couple pictures randomly before our pony, Rocket, decided to demand my attention, which forced me to put my phone down. I watched Aspen as I petted Rocket. She was so happy.

Aspen wasn’t so sick she needed to come home. She was sad and scared. Today she felt like she needed to be at home, where she is safe and loved. She needed to ask me some questions and she needed me to make her feel better. As I watched her with Charlie, I lost my emotional stuff. Look at this innocent little soul we are responsible for raising and sending out into this world. So many thoughts ran through my head, including that I should homeschool the girls so they’re safe. But my husband and I both work at a college. We can’t lock ourselves away from everything (stores, movies, freeways, churches, schools...), there’s nowhere 100% “safe.” Then I got mad. Who is to blame for this? What kind of a freaking world are we living in? Then I realized that blame doesn’t solve a dang thing. And that’s just what’s started, hasn’t it? Blame? “Guns are to blame, mental illness is to blame, school security is to blame, video games are to blame....” Here’s the reality, folks. Humans are to blame. What the heck does that fix? Nothing. So instead of blaming, let’s go out and do something to fix it.

Can we fix everything? Nope. There will still be humans around and humans are inherently nutty, but it will inject the world with more good and drown out some of this ugliness, which is a win in my book.

So what can I/we do? Well, I, for one, am going to love the heck out of my girls. Our home will be a safe place for them. They’ll have parents who adore them and expect them to be kind and work hard and help others. They’ll be surrounded with our family and friends who have the same morals and values and they’ll continue to see that there is good in this world. They will see that there is a God who watches them, loves them and guides them. We will continue to shelter them from things we feel aren’t appropriate for the intelligent, independent, self-confident young ladies we are trying to raise. We will show them how to give back without expecting anything in return. We will help them find their purpose. We will also help the students who come into our lives to find their purpose. A purpose-driven life is what more people need. Help your kids (or volunteer to be a mentor if you don’t have kids) with that instead of blaming. People with purpose, heart and grit don’t hurt others.

Right now my Aspen is taking a little nap in her cozy, safe room. I told her we can go back out to check animals when she wakes up (animals are my therapy, too). I had some time to sit and reflect and write this while our home is quiet and peaceful. I’m far from perfect and there are things I need to do a better job of, so please don’t think that I think I have it all figured out. I know I don’t.

I know this was a long post. If you read it all, thanks. I’ll leave you with a quote that always makes me feel better. I hope it makes your heart happy, too. God bless the innocent lives lost. God bless you. And God bless this beautiful country.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” (Fred Rogers)


AUTHOR’S NOTE — In February 2018, I wrote this (following the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida) and sadly, it seems appropriate again.

Contributing writer Skyla Teel is a wife, mom, professor, rodeo coach and life coach. She can be reached at