Like most compassionate people in the country I am having a very difficult time with the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School this past Friday. As the events began to unfold Friday morning it seemed to get worse and worse with every new piece of news. I was obsessed with the internet desperate to learn more information with a false hope that maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. I spoke to my mother, an elementary school teacher in Shelton CT – about 15 miles away from Newtown. She too was overcome with disbelief as we all wondered how someone could be capable of such violence to cause harm to young children. We asked why and how but will never be satisfied with an answer.
In days that followed I stayed busy preparing for Christmas but the people of Newtown were always on my mind. In the moments I was enjoying myself with friends I would start to feel guilty for forgetting for a minute. I couldn’t sleep through the night, couldn’t stop watching the news or reading articles and couldn’t stop thinking about the families whose lives were torn apart so senselessly. I cried watching the New York City Children’s Chorus sing Silent Night on SNL and again during all the other touching tributes friends are sharing online. I wanted to feel better but not at the expense of forgetting what had happened and what the families of the victims are going through.
Naturally everyone wants to DO something. Many are voicing their opinions on gun control and the care of mentally ill citizens. There are charities being set up in honor of the victims and a teddy bear drives for the children. Then I learned about the 26 Acts movement. The Sunday after the shooting, Anne Curry tweeted “Imagine if everyone went out and committed to 20 acts of kindness for every child lost in Newtown?”. The idea spread and grew to become 26 acts for everyone killed in the school (many have requested it become 27 to include the first victim). The idea being as Anne says “If you do good you’ll feel good”. So on Tuesday I got started by making a decision to do something selfless, not just because it’s Christmas or because I’m a nice person but in honor of one of the lives lost. I’m going to keep going until I’ve reached at least 27 and hopefully continue even after that.
Just like I bet everyone else that is participating in the 26 Acts does, I do random acts of kindness relatively often. I’m a pretty nice person who finds a lot of joy in helping others. The difference here is the extra thought throughout the day and knowing that you are doing it in memory of one of those children or teachers. I won’t be posting my list on Facebook or Twitter because this isn’t about me, but I will tell you that just the few things I’ve done so far have made me not just feel better but feel great. It’s a chance to celebrate those lives that were lost. An opportunity to remind one another that there is good in the world, a lot of it, and we can’t let the sadness that comes from an awful tragedy like this allow us to forget.
If you Google 26 Acts of Kindness you will get lots of websites talking about the movement with lots of ideas of what you can do. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or contribute a huge chunk of time. You can simply put kindness in the forefront of your mind and then do what comes naturally.
I don’t foolishly believe that this is going to make everything okay but maybe if everyone participates, even just a little bit, thanks to the memory of those beautiful children and their selfless teachers we can all make the world a better place for a friend or stranger.
Websites you might find helpful: