1 John 3:16 (New International Version)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
If you can bear to do so one more time, revisit Jonesboro, Arkansas, on March 24, 1998. Go to Westside Middle School. Let your mind be there in the early morning. Children are laughing, making excuses about homework, eating lunch. But you are there before the fire alarm is pulled and children walk outside into a hail of bullets.
There is a 32-year-old English teacher doing the one job above all others she had aspired to in life. Shannon Wright had attended Westside, earned a college degree, and dreamed of teaching in the school she had once attended. And there she is Tuesday morning with her pupils. Explaining nouns and verbs. Correcting grammar. Trying to teach 11-, 12-, and 13-year-old students to use language correctly.
After a full morning, she enjoyed her lunch break. It was a time to be still, to relax, to refocus for her afternoon classes. She had just finished lunch and moved her students back to the classroom when the fire alarm sounded. She knew what to do. The school periodically rehearses. In fact, she probably told herself there was nothing to worry about. It's just another of those required drills. They get us ready -- just in case there should ever be a real emergency at Westside Middle.
But that Tuesday turned out to be that dreaded real emergency. No sooner had Mrs. Wright gotten outside than the pop-pop-popping sounds started. Firecrackers? No, bullets! And to her horror she saw children being hit. They were screaming, falling to the ground, bleeding! Then she saw a 13-year-old girl directly in the line of fire. So she did what her relatives and co-workers said they would have expected of her. She selflessly put her own body between the little girl and the deadly missiles. She was hit by two bullets. She died from her wounds.
"She loved kids," said her husband, Mitchell. "I'm sure that if she thought someone was trying to hurt one of her kids, she would try to protect them."
Dear Lord we pray that we would have Your love and that when given the chance we would show that love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.