To the students who walked out of class,
You will hear about a lot of nasty comments made by adults because of what you did Wednesday. Don't listen.
You will hear them so bravely (from behind a computer) rip you apart on social media because you apparently "don't even understand why you're protesting."
You will be accused of only trying to get out of class. You might even be told by a person who is well over the age of adulthood to "go eat some Tide Pods and be quiet"...because that's a great example of how you should act on social media towards children who aren't harming anybody.
You will also be made out to be somebody who does not have a mind of their own and is being manipulated by adults telling you to do this. But what they seem to forget is that students your age don't always feel the need to listen to adults anyway. And you know what? You shouldn't, and here's why: You are supposed to develop a mind of your own. It's what we want you to do. Some adults find it easy to criticize your generation for not having any depth and only caring about selfies and YouTube. They say you can't handle real life issues and that you break down and cry too easily.
So then, when you do stand up to show compassion for the 17 students and faculty members who were gunned down in a Florida school, when some of you are even as brave as to say you might think it's a good idea to have stricter gun laws (knowing saying so will bring out the adult wolves ready to pounce on your every "idiotic" little word), then they try to tell you to sit down. On one hand they want you to have a mind of your own, but then when you do they criticize you.
The thing is, though, adults make horrible mistakes all the time. They sometimes mistake feelings for knowledge. They don't always know what they're talking about, and they certainly do not always act the way we expect you kids to.
You are told not to be bullies, to embrace those kids at school who don't have friends (and you should), but I guarantee you that some of these people are the worst adult offenders when it comes to treating other people well and embracing differences. There are adults who are racists. There are adults who deep down think they're better than other people who don't have as much money as they do. There are some incredibly judgy adults out there who you should not take social notes from. These people are often the biggest critics.
And of course you should always be kind, you know that. Of course you should obey your parents and act respectfully for your teachers and coaches. Be the sort of people that you know you should be even if you're not being told line by line what to do. It's called "integrity", and it's something not everybody has and is developed by doing what you believe is right. But do not let the nasty adults of this world suffocate your fire because if given the chance, they will do just that.
They will be sarcastic and roll their eyes at you. Most aren't doing it out of ill will but out of a belief that they are right, and today's youth should be seen and not heard. But you are at an age where you should start to find your voices. You should be heard. And if those are voices filled with love and passion and kindness, then be loud about it. Do not let the voices of negativity overtake yours.
You are not perfect, and adults have a lot they can teach you about a variety of life issues; however, at some point soon you will become adults, too. And let me tell you, right now this world is in dire need of more people who are willing to make positive change in the dark issues that us current adults have created. So kids, keep your heads high, your mind sharp, your skin thick and your hearts big.
You've got this.
Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena, all in Minnesota.