When news broke of the April 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting, most of us old enough to recall the event were in shock. We shook our heads and wondered how a couple of high school students could even develop, much less carry out, something so heinous, so tragic, so cold.
Those of us with children wrapped our arms around them. We reinforced our love for them, we reassured them they were safe. Or so we hoped and prayed. We wanted and needed that to be true.
And then we wondered, as many of our children no doubt did, whether something as tragic as what happened in Littleton, Colo., could happen here in the Lakelands.
Deep down, we knew it could. After all, while not on the same scale as Columbine, we had our own school shooting tragedy in 1988 at Greenwood's Oakland Elementary School. And yet, we did not really have any idea what, if anything, we could do to ensure our children were safe. In short, as much as we wanted to, we could not do anything to make a difference in Columbine's aftermath.
Dr. Robert A. "Bob" Saul felt that same tugging in his heart and mind. What could he do to make a difference, to possibly prevent another Columbine? As a pediatrician and a parent himself, Saul knows by the time someone reaches the age of the Columbine shooters (and older, of course), it is too late to effect change in that person's heart and mind. Prevention, like child-rearing, starts at the very beginning. It must be in an individual's root system, not when he has long since branched out and sprouted mature leaves.

SAUL DISCERNED "community improvement efforts needed to be re-doubled." That alone was not enough, however, and Saul became determined to add a component — promote good citizenship.
And so, in 1999, Saul embarked on a mission of sorts. While working at Greenwood Genetic Center, he developed what he calls the Five Steps and began producing guest columns for the Index-Journal. In short, those steps are: learn to be the best parent you can be, get involved, stay involved, have love for others and forgiveness.
From those Five Steps, Saul produced about 165 columns that were published in this newspaper. He did not envision producing that many columns. In fact, Saul said he did not even initially envision writing any column after Columbine.
"Kids killing kids didn't make sense," he said during a recent interview. The Five Steps, as outlined in those columns, is what sprang forth, what made sense as he struggled with making a difference in his community, in children's lives, in parents' lives.
Late last year, those columns came to be the foundation and structure for a book Saul published through Amazon's self-publishing arm. He gave birth to "My Children's Children: Raising Young Citizens in the Age of Columbine" late last year.
"Probably when I got around 100-plus columns, I thought I should put it in a book," Saul said. "Len Bornemann (former Greenwood Chamber director and this year's inductee into the Chamber's Hall of Fame) suggested a book — like a devotional."

THAT WAS SEVERAL YEARS back, but in 2012 Saul began the journey of giving his vast material an overview and of deciding not only the content of the book, but also how to construct it.
It became a parenting book, Saul said, but "not a typical parenting book." The book takes readers beyond the realm of being good parents and into the larger, more comprehensive world of "wanting our children to be good citizens," he said.
"I wanted it to be conversational, so it would make sense with folks with varying degrees of literacy," Saul said. "I didn't want something that looked like a master's thesis."
Readers who are familiar with Saul's many guest columns in this newspaper no doubt recall how he always summarized what he wrote. He called those "the take-home message."
True to form, each chapter has a "take-home message." Saul said those summaries stem from his physician side as he always wants to ensure the discussion between the doctor and patient is clear and understood.
Saul said he is pleased with how the book finally came together, too.
"My goal was to get on Oprah's (Winfrey) couch," he joked, "but she took it away" when she ended her network show and launched her cable channel, OWN.
The book will be available locally through McCaslan's bookstore in Greenwood and available online.
Saul hopes to get his book in the hands of people who not only want to raise their children well, but also make the world a better place by developing children into good and conscientious adults.
That's a great take-home message, too.

Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email rwhiting@indexjournal.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.