What makes one kid a hero and another a shooter who preys on his classmates? What causes one boy to help others while another becomes a bully?
There is no easy, one-size-fits-all formula for raising a child who will make you proud, rather than become a daily source of regret and sorrow.
Parents definitely influence their offspring’s character by their words, actions and beliefs, but can’t be held morally responsible when an 18-year-old commits a destestable action.
After all, God gave us free will — and this includes the possibility of doing egregious things that defy decent behavior. Free will also means parents can’t force a teen to attend synagogue or church, read the Bible or spend time helping others.
In most cases, children fortunate enough to have a stable family with parents who model virtuous behavior will understand the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, courage and cowardice.
Some of these children take courageous action in the face of evil and become heroes.
These issues came to mind when I read about the tragic shooting in the STEM School Highlands Ranch that happened May 7. Two teens evidently entered the school armed with guns and as a result of this horrific decision, eight students were injured and one died.
Kendrick Castillo, 18, is being hailed as a hero because when one shooter entered his literature classroom, he and two other brave classmates lunged at him. In the ensuing struggle, one boy was injured, one boy emerged unscathed — and Castillo was shot and killed.
His heroism wasn’t an impetuous, in-the-moment decision but was instead premeditated. You see, his father revealed in an interview that he had discussed the possibility of a school shooting with his son.
“You don’t have to be the hero,” his father said.
But the boy replied that he would do something to help others. “You raised me this way,” he said. “You raised me to be a good person.”
There is very little information available about the accused shooters, their families and background, but apparently one had a reputation for bullying students.
And according to news reports, he evidently drove a car with obscenities painted on it, plus 666, which some people see as a symbol of evil.
Then there’s Castillo, who was an altar server at church and pitched in with his father at Knights of Columbus events to raise money for charity. Castillo, who was an only child, hoped to imitate his father and join this Catholic fraternal organization dedicated to helping others.
“He was all about love,” his father said.
One friend remembers Castillo carrying heavy crates of peaches for a Knights of Columbus fundraiser and also helping serve lunches for the elderly. Evidently he and his father spent quite a bit of time together, whether it was camping, fishing, hunting, working on cars or volunteering.
As a Christian, Castillo surely took to heart Jesus’ words about sacrificial love: “Greater love than this no man has than that he lay down his life for his friends.”
And with Christ as his model, it’s completely understandable why this young man didn’t sit still, when his classmates were threatened, but instead chose to perform the ultimate act of selfless love.
There’s a beautiful scene in the Bible where a master praises an industrious servant by saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It’s easy to imagine Kendrick Castillo, a faithful follower of Christ, meeting God in heaven and hearing these words.
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Lorraine recently completed a study guide on Flannery O’Connor for Bishop Robert Barron’s series “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players.” Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org