Walk Up, Not Out

"Walk up, not out" by Kelly Guest (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2018 Mason Fife. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

A month ago, a young man walked into his school with hatred in his heart and a gun in his hand. Before he walked out again, 13 students, two teachers and a custodian were dead. It is a tragedy that breaks hearts and stirs the mind to wonder why.

There are no easy answers. So many things went wrong; too many mistakes were made; all the warning signs were ignored. A true tragedy.

It shattered the lives of so many in Parkland, Florida. Likewise, it has shaken the lives of many others around the country.

A place where students are supposed to be safe no longer feels secure. The atmosphere in schools around the country is tense. Adults and students argue about what needs to be done “to make sure this never happens again.” What’s worse is the lack of respect and civility that often accompanies these discussions.

The fact of the matter is, evil exists. We will never be totally safe from it. Soon after the beginning of time, evil deceived its way into the world. The peace and security of paradise was lost. The first tragedy outside the garden was murder. The hatred and jealousy that leads someone to take another life has been with us from the start of our history. How can we change that?

I have a suggestion. It is in one sense an over-simplification. And I do not, by any means, think it will solve the world’s problems. Nonetheless, by God’s good grace, I am confident that it can make a difference, and if enough people do it, a big difference.

Therefore, instead of walking out of school on March 14, encourage students to walk up. Walk up to the kid who sits a lone at lunch and invite him to sit with your group. Walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner of the room and sit next to her, smile and say hi. Walk up to the kid who causes disturbances in class and ask how he is doing. Walk up to your teachers and thank them. Walk up to someone who has different views than you and get to know her: you may be surprised at how much you have in common. Build on that foundation instead of casting stones. Our opinions may differ, but as God’s children, we have much more in common than not.

So, I challenge students to find 14 students and 3 adults to walk up to on March 14 and say something nice in honor of those who died in Parkland, Florida. All of us need to make this concerted effort every day, starting today. Still, if on the one-month anniversary of this tragedy, we remember the people who lost their lives in this caring way, perhaps the atmosphere of our schools will begin to change.

They say God is not allowed in our public schools. God, however, is found in the heart of every faithful follower. We take Him to school and to the workplace with us. We preach Him every time we reach out to others in love. Let us walk up and share His love. That is how we will truly change the world!

Copyright 2018 Kelly Guest


About Author

God has given Kelly lots of wonderful opportunities to follow Him. She was a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia in Nashville, an education coordinator for a Catholic Charities' program for pregnant teens, a middle school teacher, a director of religious education and is now a youth minister. Her most challenging and rewarding calling, though, is wife and mother of ten children. What she has learned, she blogs at CatholicMom.com.


  1. Walking up and trying to befriend a lonely student is a noble idea. But it wouldn’t have taken the gun out of the hands of people like these.

    Here’s a thought. How about do your walkout on March 14 since things absolutely need to be addressed in this country regarding gun violence. And save the feel good walking up to the shy lonely kids for every other day of the year, not just one day. It’s what should be happening anyway. Cant people just stand together against gun violence for 1 day?

    • Kelly Guest on

      I am all for Marches. As a matter of fact, I just got back from the Maryland March for Life in our state capitol. I am also against gun violence; I do not know anyone who is for it. The question is how do we best protect life, how do we stop gun violence.

      @Walkupnotout was a response more to the lack of a civil discussion and honest debate about the issue and the tragedy that happened in FL. While I appreciate the passion of young people, the lack of respect shown by some of the students who have become the face of the Walk Out movement saddened me. I suggested walking up for 2 reasons: 1) to promote love and respect among each other, and 2) to honor those who died in Parkland by specifically finding 17 people to acknowledge in some way – with a hello, how are you, want to sit with us.

      Of course this kind of behavior should and needs to be practiced daily. And I do believe if love and kindness are truly shown it can make a difference. Personally, I feel most secure when I know how loved I am.

      • Nancy Shoemaker on

        You want to honor the Parkland kids, the killed, the injured, the traumatized survivors? They came up with the WALK OUT campaign!! By encouraging this concept of “Walk Up” you are invalidating what they have requested. You are suggesting that somehow if they had JUST been nicer to Cruz, he would not have shot them! This is horrifying and untrue! There was NO history of bullying against Cruz, which is true for many of the other school shootings. The idea that the Columbine shooters were bullied was not true! In fact, one student tried to be kind and friendly toward Cruz. He killed her! So yes, let’s encourage and support peer inclusion but not on one day (can you imagine how that would feel to the kids approached… on one day?) and not as a substitute for peaceful protest or advocating for gun regulation.

        • Kelly Guest on

          Mother Teresa often said, “The poor are right there where you are, Very often in your own families (I’ll also add schools and communities). Look for them, find them and put your love for Jesus into a living action for them.” It was in this Spirit that I posted #walkupnotout. Please do not add or take away from my intentions. I simply want to set a foundation for dialogue. We are losing the ability to listen and talk to one another. That is a form of poverty.

          • Carole Scrimager on

            Well, if you didn’t want to control their narrative and rain on their parade, you could have called it “Walk Up AND Out.” But that’s not what you did. Now every far right person in the U.S. is claiming that the Douglas students brought this tragedy on themselves by bullying poor Nikolas Cruz into shooting them.

  2. This post is fantastic, Kelly! Your idea of walking up to kids, instead of walking out, is so positive and life giving. If all the students did this it would have an amazing ripple effect.
    I hope it’s okay that I shared an excerpt on my Facebook page. If it isn’t, I can take it down. I just felt that the more people who heard your message, the better. Blessings to you!

    • Kelly Guest on

      Thank you, Claire. It is absolutely fine with me to share. Love and kindness, by God’s grace, can change the world!

  3. I heard Abby Watts talking about this post this morning. YES! This is what kids need to be doing. It’s so much more productive than walking out. The lonely and disenfranchised will still be that way with a walk-out but they won’t if someone talks to them and lets them know that they are valuable and loved. What a fabulous idea!

    • Kelly Guest on

      Yes, Sandy, exactly. Every child, every person young and old, needs to know they are valuable and loved.

  4. Christine Kuramoto on

    We need both, but I feel this is a diversion from the student’s valid concern about gun control laws. Yes, we need to take care of those in our midst who are reachable. But, we also need to hold politicians responsible for m
    Taking real action on gun control. The action our local high school students took — having seventeen students research and write about each student whose life was lost and then walking back to class was beautiful. Let’s “walk up AND out.” And let’s support our student’s rights.

  5. Kelly Guest on

    The fact that your students took time to find out about those whose lives were lost is a beautiful thing.
    The issue of gun control is a tricky one which requires a good, honest debate. Hence, the #walkupnotout challenge was meant to help to promote the kindness and respect needed for true dialogue.
    The students who want have every right to March at their state and the national capitols on the 20. Whether or not the have the rifht to leave their school is debatable. In this divisive time, I was hoping for aomething that would unify.

  6. CHRISTINE Kuramoto on

    Jesus was not always nice. In fact, he was downright blunt in his challenge to both rabbinical and Roman authorities. Your post is not “walk out AND up” but “walk up not out.” You proceed to write that the students were “disrespectful.” For all your concern with being loving, you are promoting a diversion from the students’ passionate requests that the ISSUE OF GUN CONTROL be placed first on the public policy list for elected officials.They are speaking the truth of their experience to power. You are not walking with them– you are using the action that they chose and piggy-backing on it with your own “walk up, not out.” You are appropriating in order to undermine. It would have been possible for you to have added your idea, perhaps by joining one of the many efforts at anti- bullying going on around the country. Instead you chose yo undermine. Respectfully– that is NOT an expression of love.

  7. I pray that as we continue the discussion we will remember that there are many ways to put our love of Jesus into action. There are many ways to respond to tragic events such as the one on Florida and the one in Las Vegas.

    One size does not fit all, and one interpretation of how to solve the problem might not fit all, either.

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