“I want to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion that will make a ripple around the world.” – Rachel Scott.
She fell first that dreadful morning.
She had been eating lunch, sitting on the grass outside the cafeteria, when the shooting started.
Four bullets struck her.
For Rachel Scott, life no longer.
The selfless 17-year-old was the first victim of the massacre at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Many, many others followed.
Twelve more died, a further 21 injured during the devastation that followed those first, fatal shots.
Understanding, impossible. The loss, incalculable.
Even now, 13 years on, the scars endure and it is almost impossible to believe that something good could emerge from such darkness.
But emerge it has, in Rachel Scott’s name, and it is having the most profound impact on lives throughout the United States and beyond.
Rachel Scott is more than just a Columbine victim.
Far more, in fact.
You see, prior to the tragedy that cost her her life, Rachel had been a prolific diarist, many of her writings coming to light only after her death.
Those writings are remarkable.
So much so that Rachel’s words are, these days, touching countless lives, making a difference and spreading the most important message imaginable.
That message, one that speaks loud and clear to us all in our studio, here in Saunderstown.
You see, it is one rooted in kindness and compassion.
It is all about love. It is all about connection.
Using the contents of her six diaries as his inspiration, Rachel’s father, Darrell Scott, has established a non-profit organization that gives thought-provoking presentations in schools, colleges and communities across the United States.
Its aim, to ‘motivate, educate and bring positive change to many young people’.
To promote the things that meant so much to Rachel.
To put an end to bullying, violence and teen suicide.
To prevent further tragedies.
The program is called Rachel’s Challenge and the impact it is having is proving to be quite astonishing.
Earlier this week, students from Rhode Island – young people from schools in and around our studio – took part in Rachel’s Challenge for the first time.
The emotional experience is described as ‘life-changing’.
It is little wonder giving the beauty of the writings that are at the program’s core – these, remember, the words of a teenager committing such things to paper for no reason other than that this was what was in her heart at the time.
You’ll excuse us if we quote Rachel at some length here.
It’s just that our own words could never quite do hers the justice they deserve.
‘Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer. My definition of compassion is forgiving, loving, helping, leading and showing mercy for others. I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.
‘It wasn’t until recently that I learned that first, second and third impressions can be deceitful. Imagine you had just met someone. You reach a judgement. Did you ever ask them what their goal in life is? What kind of past they came from? Did they experience love? Did they experience hurt? Did you look into their soul and not just at their appearance? You have not looked for their beauty, for their good. You have not seen the light in their eyes. Look hard enough and you will always see a light. You can even help it grow, if you don’t walk away first.
‘I’m sure that my codes of life might be different from yours, but how do you know that trust, compassion and beauty will not make this world a better place to be in and this life a better one to live? My codes may seem like a fantasy that can never be reached, but test them for yourself and see the kind of effect they have in the lives of people around you. You just may start a chain reaction’.
Rachel’s Challenge has touched millions of lives, that is no exaggeration, our own amongst them.
To think that a teenager could have such depth and insight, to recognize that others think like us, motivates us to continue in our own efforts to reach out and connect.
Because the qualities that underpin our OMs are the same ones that are proving so inspirational and making a difference to lives in classrooms and school halls throughout the United States.
Qualities like compassion, kindness, love and and understanding . . . .
. . . . the things that OMs stand for.
The things that brought them about in the first place.
The things in Rachel’s heart.
Here’s to Rachel Scott and Rachel’s Challenge.
Here’s to kindness and compassion.
Let’s start a chain reaction.