This has been a confusing weekend. An emotional one. In the wake of Friday’s tragedy, I think many Americans are living in a mixed state of grief, pain, shock, anger and fear. As more stories emerge that give us a small glimpse into what unfolded for the children and teachers inside the school walls, each new detail has been like another shard of glass piercing our collective hearts.
My own reaction when this happened was a deep and utter grief for the families who have been impacted by the tragedy. Because I know that the pain does not end with the passing of 26 citizens of this world. It does not end with the families, the friends and neighbors of those who have died. It does not end with the hundreds of children who were brought to safety and survived. It will not end with the children who were hidden in closets to protect them from the killer on the other side of the door.
My grief was replaced by a need to ask WHY? Like so many, I want to find answers. It’s clear from details that have emerged that the young man who did this, this irreversible thing, was just a baby himself at the age of 20. And that he was extremely troubled and battling his own demons with a history of mental illness.
Americans are a practical people. We want to look for solutions. We all like to be fixers, I think. The problem is that the solutions we all discuss are a part of something much more complex. The solutions we point to are often fairly one dimensional and alone, will not solve the problem. Some of us point to guns. Some of us point to a lack of mental illness programs for the individuals and families who live with the reality of it every day. We can point to an entertainment industry that glamorizes violence and a gun culture that perpetuates that Americans have a “God given right” to wield weapons that can kill with the ferocity we saw on Friday.
As if God would want us wielding semi-automatic weapons. God sure does “give” in mysterious ways.
I don’t know the whys and I don’t know the solution. I think many of us want to talk about it, NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT in our own way try to understand how to prevent this again, so there is not another school, mall or movie theater in the news next week.
Perhaps we don’t know the answer today. On our solutions, as a country we are strongly divided. We all want to protect our children but we have different views on how to achieve that and what “fixing this” means. Heck, we can’t even agree on what “this” is.
Nothing will bring back the children that died on Friday. Nothing we write on Facebook. Nothing we say in disagreements on Twitter. Nothing we discuss in heated voices by the water cooler. Hugging our children will give us comfort. But again, it doesn’t change the fact that there are parents who will never have that chance again.
Perhaps in our grief and our collective humanity, we can honor those who are gone with something more than anger. There has been too much anger.
The faces of those who died on Friday will be at the forefront of the American conscience for a while, as they should be. The images of the beautiful young children and heroic faculty that died will haunt us for some time.
But in the midst of the horror emerge stories that should remind us of the largest lesson here. Humanity.
The bravery of the school custodian who ran up and down the halls trying to warn the teachers.
The fearlessness of the school secretary who turned on the school intercom to warn everyone that there was a shooter in the building.
The teachers who hid their kids in bathrooms and closets and calmed them down with books, crayon and paper. One, protecting her students by physically placing herself in front of them, acting like a shield, when the gunman shot her.
The cafeteria workers who hid the kids out of sight and locked all the cafeteria doors.
The Principal who ran head on to confront the shooter.
The kid who offered to protect his class and lead them out of the school, because he “knew karate.”
There are about 15 days left till the end of the year. I know this doesn’t count as “paying it forward” but it’s close. I think it’s time we honor and recognize that we are tied together and bound by something more important than our views on guns, solutions and our politics.
I plan to do it by participating in a movement to perform 26 acts of kindness to honor each of the victims from Sandy Hook Elementary that day. You can follow the movement on Twitter under the hashtags #20Acts (for those honoring the children) and #26Acts. I am going with 26. Because if the courageous staff had not responded the way they did that day, even more children would be dead.
Why do we need a movement to be kind? Shouldn’t we just naturally be kind? you might ask. Of course. YES. But I would like to perform these acts with each victim in my heart. It’s my way of honoring their spirit and lighting a candle with and for each of the sparks they have created.
So, who is in? If you are, consider sharing this post or just spread the word on Facebook.
Let’s do this thing.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”- Mother Teresa
Post script 12/18/2012: Since writing this post, I did discover that journalist, Ann Curry (@anncurry) had and was the inspiration for this movement. I just want to say thank you to her for having the grace and vision to start something like this. And I know this is a post about love and shit, but to the Executives at the Today show who decided she should not stay on? How do ya like them apples?
Kind of bitter, huh?
Oh and for anyone who is complaining about the movement saying people should be kind every day? Yes, we get it. But this helps with healing. I am inspired following that hashtag. Also, people are asking for ideas on some inexpensive ways to be kind. Here are a few that I picked up on the #26acts hashtag:
1) Give 26 unsuspecting people a flower with a tag on the bottom with each of the victim’s names. Or don’t put the names. Just do that in your heart.
2) If you are buying coffee, buy the coffee for the lady or man in front of you. Merry Christmas! Hope they like their Macchiato!
3) Tell people you love who you don’t normally “appreciate” the way you should why they rock.
4) Reach out to a teacher who you loved as a kid and send them a wish for the holidays and a thank you for what they did.
5) Tell your children’s teachers how much you appreciate them.
6) Send an email to the Today show and remind them why they should never have fired Ann Curry. Donkeys.
7) Make a nice dinner for a homeless person.
Anyway, just wanted to add this. If you have any inexpensive ideas, make sure to tweet them with the hashtag #26acts, or comment here and I will get them up.