- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) - Students learned a little compassion can go a long way — a lesson shared Tuesday by the father of a student killed at Columbine High School.

On April 20, 1999, 13 victims were killed at Columbine High School Massacre. The first student murdered was 17-year-old Rachel Scott, whose legacy lives on through Rachel’s Challenge, a national nonprofit organization started by her stepmother, Sandy Scott, and father, Darrell Scott. Rachel’s message was shared Tuesday with students at Wheeler High School and Union Township Middle School.

In the wake of her death, Rachel’s family, friends and supporters have traveled around the world to share Rachel’s story, reaching about 2 million to 3 million people every year.

The presentations focus on the messages Rachel left behind in her writings, including a school essay titled “My Ethics-My Codes of Life.” It was in this essay that Rachel wrote what fuels the organization. She wrote, “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

Her idea of a “chain reaction of kindness” has inspired schools around the world to take a hands-on role in Rachel’s message. By writing down acts of compassion on colored paper, rolling them into a circle and linking them with other kind acts, students create their own chain reaction.

“The longest acts of kindness chain was 28 miles long,” Darrell Scott told The Times in Munster (https://bit.ly/1CPaDrn ).

As Darrell spoke to the students, he shared excerpts of Rachel’s many diaries and gave the audience challenges to live up to: eliminating prejudice, dreaming big and choosing positive influences, to name a few.

“It’s the simple acts of kindness that have made this world a better place,” he said.

Rachel is remembered as someone who would always reach out to people in need. During her televised funeral on CNN, friends shared their memories of Rachel stopping bullies in the act and reaching out to new students when they had no one else.

“She was just a normal teenage girl who simply wanted to help other people,” her father said. “She just did little things. Small things that every one of us can do every single day.”

A chilling twist to Rachel’s story was that she seemed to know she wouldn’t live a long life. About a year before her death, her journal entries were oddly out of character, he said. On May 2, 1998, she wrote, “This is my last year Lord. I have gotten what I can. Thank you.”

After Rachel’s televised memorial service, an unknown businessman called her father with the need to describe his recurring dream. The caller told him that for two weeks he dreamed of Rachel’s eyes crying tears into a field of grass where something was growing.

About two weeks after that phone call, her father discovered a picture drawn the morning of the shootings, in which Rachel drew a pair of eyes crying 13 tears into a blooming rose, perhaps symbolic of the 13 innocent lives lost in the Columbine shooting.

“I want to give you an assignment,” Darrell Scott said in closing. “Beginning today, I want you to go to the people that you care about the most and I want you to tell them from your heart how much you love them, how much you appreciate them and what they mean to you.”

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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