I am from Uvalde. I went to Robb Elementary School, a place from which friendships remain after decades. For those of us who grew up in Uvalde, life was carefree. At school we had field day competitions and ate Popsicles. Friday nights were spent going with parents to our local high school football games at the Honey Bowl Stadium. Summertimes were filled with weekly movie matinees at the El Lasso theater, followed by afternoons spent at the El Progreso library around the corner and culminating in a home barbecue of Texas brisket.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Uvalde is a place where everyone says hello when they pass one another at the H-E-B supermarket or on the street going to the post office. Most people there are bilingual. People share meals, music and so much more—no matter how modest. It is a simple community with a complex history based on poverty and social inequities. It’s a place where kindness and civility don’t just matter—they are the values that nurtured us as children and guided us into our adult lives, even those of us who moved far away.
Those of us from Uvalde struggle to find words to express how one horrendous act of what should be unthinkable violence has taken not only 21 precious lives but also destroyed the sense of safety that we had always associated with our community. We ache for our hometown, and know that the loss, tragedy and distress will permeate its roots—roots based on respect, civility and family values.
As we struggle to find our way forward, we must stay true to those roots. The magnitude of loss is unthinkable for most of us, but my hope is that we can look deep within ourselves and find ways to care for and affect one another as humans. With the kindness and civility that was Uvalde’s hallmark . . . until May 24, 2022.
There is room for all of us to take a human approach to this tragedy. For some, it takes the form of advocacy; others share resources; and then there are those who hold a hand or share a meal.
I have not lived in Uvalde in many years, but I have been moved by the outpouring of support I’ve received personally, from colleagues offering to lighten my load, from friends who bring over a meal or visit just because, and even from strangers who express empathy about what has happened and ask what they can do. And here is my answer.
We each have a role in managing grief, and we respond to it differently. Each of us plays multiple roles: We’re parents, friends, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, professionals and citizens. There is room for all of us to take a human approach to this tragedy. For some, it takes the form of advocacy; others share resources; and then there are those who hold a hand or share a meal.
Although I have never experienced the loss of a child or been the victim of violence, I know that life can change in a nanosecond, as it did when my spouse, Drew Erickson, ’88, MS ’94, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 2001. Once our future came into focus, we spent waking hours preparing meals together, holding hands and acknowledging the inevitable, while using laughter to deflect the pain and to allow the absurd. We were real, and our relationship grew with the authenticity necessary to incorporate the good, the bad and the ugly.
We have only each other in this world, and we live in a world of uncertainty, where things change quickly. Let’s not take anything for granted.
Be authentic. Be truly present for family and friends, with those you work with and even with strangers. Talk less. Listen harder. Pay attention.
We are all human. We all matter. A kind word, a friendly greeting or simply an empathic ear can mean more to the soul than you know. Think about how simple it is to offer kindness and how communities can benefit from its multiplier effect. We can’t ever know how our actions and words in the moment might affect someone’s life.
Take the time now. You may not have it tomorrow. Uvalde grieves. The nation grieves. Be there for one another. Practice humanity and kindness. Think about what you have to share with one another, and set the example. Starting right now.
Michelle Vasquez, ’88, is a marketing strategist in San Antonio. Email her at email@example.com.