As the news continues to come out of Newtown, Connecticut, of the unimaginable acts of violence at Sandy Hook Elementary, I still cannot grasp the horror and pain being experienced by the survivors, families and entire community. I will wait for more facts to develop before I resolutely confirm my personal judgments about the need for new gun-control laws and how to pay for the increased care needed for individuals with mental health disorders, but for now I mourn for the children, their educators and an entire community that I do not personally know.
And Saturday night, as the victims’ names were released, the tears came again as I read the list; a first-grader named Grace (McDonnell) was one of the innocent children whose life was taken way too soon in the tragedy. My beautiful, smart, and silly daughter, Grace, is a first-grader in the Dearborn schools. Losing a Grace deeply hurts my heart.
I cannot imagine my life without my Grace and the joy she brings our lives. Every weekday morning I kiss her brightly (but often mismatched) clothed being goodbye in her school, where I assume she will be safe. I assume she will be able to learn how to do addition and subtraction, quietly read “Frog and Toad Together,” play safely outside at recess, and be a precocious six-year old with her schoolmates in all of their precious innocence. I assume that I will see her bright toothless smile a few hours later at home when she excitedly tells me about the new book she checked out of the school library, or how she loved the fish nuggets they served for lunch.
So since I cannot make sense of this tragedy, I have had a feeling of longing to do something. On Saturday morning, I read a Facebook post from a friend in Massachusetts who challenged us to “do an act of kindness” each day to honor the young children who were murdered. After reflecting about this challenge, I accepted it and decided that I’m going to choose to honor the victims of this senseless act of violence with deliberate acts of kindness. Anyone who knows me, knows that service to my community already plays a very significant role in my life, but I’m embracing this challenge personally. I am actively choosing that love is greater than hate.
On Saturday, I updated my Facebook status to read, “So instead of trying to explain the latest tragedy, I am going to accept a challenge a friend, Patrick, offered: to do (at least) one deliberate act of kindness a day for 26 days. Will you join me to donate a warm coat or a toy to a drive, volunteer your time, give a donation to a cause that is important to you, or even just go out of your way to say kind words of encouragement to a young child, teacher, or someone who needs it? I will actively choose love over hate to honor the innocent children and the brave educators in CT. LOVE>hate.”
In talking with my husband, Damon, Grace, and our four-year old son, we’ve decided that we will choose these daily acts together as a family. It has been fun to talk together about what we can do for others. I am sure that some of our acts will be more planned than others and some will be random because of an unexpected opportunity that presents itself.
So, on Day 1, while we were out Christmas shopping, Grace and I got down on the floor to help an employee pick up a big pile of books that he accidentally dropped near us and we had a brief, but pleasant, conversation. And Damon gave a 25% off coupon we weren’t going to use to a family that was making a big purchase. Later, we paid for the car behind us at the Wayne County Lightfest, and watching the car be waved through made us smile. Will these acts of kindness change the world and stop all violence? No, of course not. But maybe we will truly help someone, or at least, put a smile on their face, or ours, for a little while in the midst of such tragedy.
Would you like to join us in the challenge?