Our nation is still struggling to heal from the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, articles, all link to other posts, tweets, articles, posts which try to help one another, well, be helpful. I know so many who held their children tighter, either kept them home from school or took time from their busy lives to go to school with their children. To be more present in the present. And while many of our words and gestures cannot begin to heal the broken hearts of the families and community most irrevocably damaged by last Friday’s events, it is still important that we at least try.
We try through initiatives such as:
• Practicing “26 Random Acts of Kindness” as called for by former Today Show host Ann Curry
• Sending snowflakes to the Connecticut PTA so when the students return to school in 2013 they are greeted by a winter wonderland
• Coping and Caring Parent Express Bus Tour, where attendees are encouraged to create and sign condolence cards which will be hand-delivered to Newtown
These are but a few of the numerous ways to assist. Donations to individual families to help with funeral costs or donations to the school and community can be found by doing a simple on-line search.
But we cannot stop at one snowflake, one card, or even a random act of kindness. Because in the week following Sandy Hook there have been another 100 shooting deaths. ONE HUNDRED. And in fact, all across our nation, our children are dying-whether by their own hand (perhaps as a result of depression or bullying) or by the actions of another. We hear of these stories in the news but they don’t resonate because they didn’t happen all at once, and not in one location. But we have been a nation in crisis for quite some time and have failed our children miserably. So while we talk about Sandy Hook we also need to talk about what is happening on a daily basis.
All of our children have value and worth.
The loss of any child to violence should be of great concern. And it should not take a tragedy such as Sandy Hook to compel us to action, to any action. And those 26 random acts should be far from random and far more than 26. While it is a lovely gesture on my part to buy the cup of coffee for the person in line behind me, and hope that they “pay it forward” at some point in time, our actions should be mindful in both the thought and deed.
We can be purposeful in our acts by, perhaps, volunteering
• As a Big Brother or Big Sister
• As a tutor at a local community center
• To contact elected leaders and ask to partner for transformative and purposeful change regarding the health, safety, and well-being of our children and families
And in addition, we can spend our time showing care and compassion to those around us. I think about the lessons that our children are taught when they are six and seven years old and in kindergarten or first grade. They learn about how to play well with others, to share, to listen, to be patient, to take a turn, to be a respectful member of their community. Sadly, as we grow into adulthood, we forget those lessons, we often act without giving much thought to the impact of our words and deeds. And unfortunately as a culture we celebrate, reward, and encourage those who behave the worst to continue to behave the worst (just take a look at many of our reality television shows and the monetary prizes which are awarded to those who exhibit and act in the most vile and hurtful ways towards others).
I don’t begin to know what the solution is, but I’m willing to participate in the necessary conversations in order to find a solution.
And those crucial conversations are taking place all over our nation, whether in “real time” or through social media. Conversations about school safety, about gun control, about mental health. Community dialogues are attempting to help citizens understand their role in enacting change. And it is important that these conversations continue. That we question, that we resolve, that we act. And we do so with care. We may not all agree what the next, best, course of action is, but we must find that next, best, together.
So while many of us gather with family in celebration of the holidays, let us resolve to be a better version of ourselves, to live with compassion and respect. And while many of our gestures may feel small in scope, the truth is that every act of kindness makes a large difference.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ” ~Edward Everett Hale.