Just Keep Breathing
By Reggie Dabbs • reggiedabbsonline.com • Ft. Meyers, Florida
Right now, somewhere on this planet, the soles of an unknown pair of shoes just touched the hot pavement outside an unsuspecting school. Right foot. Left foot. Step after fateful step, they move in stride toward a glass-laden door… a door separating the outside world from our very hearts. For inside this building is the breathing core of all we cherish and care for most deeply. Inside this school is the next generation.
They are your friends. Your students. Your brother. Your sister. Your childhood sweetheart. The ex-boyfriend you once loved but now hate. Your mom, who is a teacher. Your children. Your husband. They may even be you— just another kid swimming from class to class in a sea of high school humanity.
They are millions of people, and they mean everything to us. That is why these shoes fast approaching the front door of this school are so important. They keep some people up at night with worry— dread, the unthinkable, the unknown, the possibility. The— dare I say it— probability of tragedies to come.
[Editor’s Note: Written prior to Uvalde]
In 1998, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the shoes were sneakers of two young boys, eleven and thirteen years old, who pulled a fire alarm to lure hundreds of innocent students and teachers out of the school doors and into their crosshairs. Five kids and one teacher died. In 1999, at Columbine High School in Colorado, the shoes were combat boots of two teenagers geared up with assault rifles who gunned down thirteen people.
And in 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the shoes were familiar— filled by the son of one of the victims. Twenty-six people, most of them very young children, lost their precious lives that horrific day. These are not even close to a full list of all the tragedies that have happened on school grounds, even if they are the most recognizable ones.
But the truth is this book is not really about school violence or the tragedies that exist inside the schools. It is actually a life-sized glimpse into the realities that exist inside the people, many of whom we have met in schools.
Just to make a point though, the truth remains that each of these violent school tragedies began with a pair of shoes laced upon feet walking an intentional path toward a door. And each day, each of us wonders what shoes— and what kind of people filling them— are walking toward the door. We have so much to lose. So much to dread. Today is no different.
This article by Reggie Dabbs is one of 8 articles in the current Youth Leaders Only Digital Box themed “Troubled Kids/Hurting Kids: Youth Ministry & The Mental Health Crisis” Get all 8 articles by clicking here. Youth Leaders Only, in its 38th year, helps youthworkers in thousands of churches be aware of the music their students are listening to, use all forms of music in their ministries, and equip their students to make wise choices about the music & media they have in their earbuds 9 hours every day. A membership costs less than the price of a pizza each month!
That pair of shoes on the hot pavement is still walking toward those glass doors. This is not a drill or a metaphor. I mean this quite literally. As you read these words, this is happening— right now.
These particular shoes are size thirteen. They are laced onto the feet of a man dressed in dark clothes, mid-to-late forties. He pushes the button outside the door, ringing his request to enter. The front office assistant looks through the window. He is a large black man with a shaved head and gray goatee. And he is carrying a small, narrow case in his hand.
She pushes the button to unlock the door and the intimidating man waltzes right past security with no resistance. He is now in the middle of our hearts. Right where so much damage has been done. So much tragedy inflicted.
His plan is obviously premeditated. He immediately walks to where the largest group of students is gathered. They are loud, unassuming, and unaware of what is about to happen. The man pauses and unzips the case. He reaches inside and pulls out something long, shiny, and metallic. He stands before the students and points the object directly at them.
They don’t stand a chance. His weapon of choice: a tenor saxophone. His name: Reggie Dabbs.
Reggie’s shoes have walked on every continent over the past twenty-five years, and what he has seen and heard on his long journey into your backyard is nothing short of shocking. He walks into our schools because he is invited to share his incredible story with millions of people. We figure it is high time that you hear their stories as well.
It is time to explore our own backyards.
Reggie Dabbs has spoken to professional athletes, stay-at-home moms, and high school students, relentlessly chasing his personal passion around the globe by sharing his astonishing story of tragedy, redemption, and hope with millions of people each year.
John Driver, MS, is an author, speaker, and fifteen-year community leader, advocate, and mentor.
All rights reserved. Used by permission of W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.