Tag: "Sandy Hook"

For the Anniversary: Launching a Year of Service

For the Anniversary: Launching a Year of Service

This piece was in the Newtown Bee, November 14, 2013 in anticipation of the one year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
Newtown

“The anniversary is approaching. Discussions have been going on across town about how best to approach the day. Taking the wishes of the families into account who have asked to not have a commemorative event that would repeat the media circus they lived through last year, there won’t be a townwide event on 12/14/13.

Instead of a single commemorative event that comes and goes, a much more carefully thought through vision and mission has been endorsed by families, our first selectman, the superintendent of schools, the Interfaith Council and civic leaders throughout our town. That is to set in motion a positive resilient momentum that will serve us for years to come. We are naming it A Year of Service. We have chosen kindness and compassion as the lessons we want to derive from the tragedy. Now we are manifesting that kindness in action in the form of a commitment to service to one another throughout the coming year and hopefully for many more years to come.

When we speak about resilience, we are talking about taking the power away from things that lead to bad outcomes and giving power to things that create growth.

On the one hand, a steady stream of beautiful, inspiring and unifying examples of kindness in action are occurring from an increasing number of individuals along with well established and newly minted organizations around Newtown. A town that has already been rich in the spirit of service to others has become much more so since 12/14/12. The “We Are Sandy Hook / We Choose Love” signs are still up. These many acts of kindness have begun to give form to that vision and mission. Over the past year, the number of people has mushroomed who want a more cooperative, compassionate and unifying style to take hold in town and who are taking action to make it so. Our innovations along this path have not only raised hopes here, but have already been an inspiration to communities across the country.

“On the other hand, we have all heard friends describe feeling physically exhausted, mentally spent and emotionally overtaxed. Perhaps it has been a desire to recapture a sense of control over all that was unleashed and what rendered us so powerless that ultimately resulted in an increase in bitterness and anger in conversations and in local social media. That helpless place in us can spawn a creeping suspicion that sours into negativity and leads to wrongly judging the motives of others and assigning unwarranted blame to those who don’t deserve it. But that’s not who we are.

We committed ourselves to not allow this terrible event and subsequent fear, anger and bitterness to define us. We committed ourselves to let compassion and kindness rule our lives. For such a commitment to kindness to mean anything, it has to take form in action. Kindness in action is service. It is a powerful force for personal rejuvenation and growth. Service to others provides a vision worth working toward. It mobilizes the best in us. It energizes our motivation. Service to others breaks the isolation and disempowerment that are the corrosive factors in dysfunctional grief. Service brings out the best in us and transforms our grief into commitment to the best in others. Ultimately, to be healthy, grief must become a commitment to be of help to others.

Click here to see the many organizations that have taken up this spirit of service in Newtown.

Click here to see the many organizations that have taken up this spirit of service in Newtown.

In that light, instead of a single commemorative event, 12/14/13 will be the first day of A Year of Service in town in which we all dedicate ourselves to transforming our sorrow, fear and anger into a commitment to a better way. As Lincoln said to another generation, “that we here highly resolve that these honored dead will not have died in vain.”

Let December 14, 2013, mark the first day of A Year of Service in which each of us commits to still the fearful and angry currents in our hearts. Let this Year of Service be a time when we practice more mature cooperative and respectful ways of speaking and problem solving. Let this Year of Service be a time to practice new habits that put the welfare of others before our own. A year will allow new personal and social habits to develop and for a new and elevated norm to emerge and solidify in the town culture that benefits us all. Obviously, the practice should extend beyond the year. But, this initial time frame shows our resolve to see our way through to a better way.

1386810470000-AP-CONNECTICUT-SCHOOL-SHOOTING-VIGIL-53299283How and where does it start? Start intimately, close to home and closer to the heart. Help those closest to you. A child can help a sibling with homework. Help a neighbor when convention says to turn away. Small acts or large, one time or long term, the point is to get started and keep going. We said we wanted to be known as the town that produced resilient role models and better citizens of the world as a result of the horror that visited us. This Year of Service will provide a context for that vision to take shape.

No one event or series of activities will be the balm we all seek. But, a web of people committed to bringing out the best in each other through repeated acts of service can set a new and elevated tone for the town. The legacy we leave for those who have left us will be our own lives richly lived in service to each other on their behalf.”

Gifts, Gratitude and Growth

Gifts, Gratitude and Growth

Newtown was the recipient of the outpouring of loving support from thousands around the country and the world.  This piece appeared in the Newtown Bee as a way to say, thank you!

Here is the link: Gifts, Gratitude and Growth

images-2“I wanted to offer my thoughts to the community, not in my role as a member of the Distribution Committee for the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Fund, but as a neighbor and friend.  We will be crossing some significant milestones in the days and weeks ahead in closing the first important phase of that Fund.  This offers us a time to reflect on what this fund is.

 

What strikes me most is that this fund is a gift.  It is not a federal entitlement enacted by statute.  It is not an insurance policy recipients have paid into.  It is a wonderful gift offered through the love and kindness of many thousands of young children who gathered their pennies as they cried for our terrible loss, teens who washed cars and held fund drives, of parents, whether they acted from their homes or their corporate and foundation board rooms, who felt some of the heartbreak of our parents here and reached out to say that their hearts broke too.  They wanted to say that they are with us, to do something to be of help.

 

2266757626_3e61f9573fIt is important to not lose sight of this healing fact: this fund is a gift of love from many people.   Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the work on the committee has been the sordid and impossible task of trying to assign a dollar amount to people’s anguish.  It is impossible to do in any satisfactory way.  The stark reality is that there is no such thing as a compensation for these terrible losses and the ongoing consequences to the families and the whole community.  To hold on to the notion that these funds could somehow substitute for these bitter losses is tragic folly.  We all see that.

 

There is a touching and tender mercy in knowing that this fund is actually a gift.  It being a gift offers us an opportunity for growth that a government entitlement or an Unknown-1insurance policy wouldn’t.  Knowing it is a gift of loving generosity, it can be received with loving gratitude.  In that view, it offers a comforting balm and an opportunity to unite us in compassion.  This gift of love ties us to a community of caring friends across the country and the world.  When viewed as an entitlement, which it is not, or an insurance claim, which it is not, the seeds of bitterness are sown as these funds can never satisfy as a compensation for the losses that were and are still being sustained here.   But, a gift of love can be healing.

 

With that in mind, we acknowledge with heartfelt loving gratitude this gift that is an expression of the loving generosity of so many.  We humbly acknowledge that this gift carries with it a moral obligation to keep alive the spirit of loving kindness that created it.  And there is plenty to be proud of in this regard.

 

A very special thing is happening in our town.  All of those who have so generously given of themselves for our benefit can feel a part of a wonderful process stirring here.  They will find a town that has sustained a tremendous and very cruel blow.  From the families who lost precious loved ones in an unspeakable way, to the teachers and students who witnessed the horrors of that day, the first responders and in expanding circles reaching out to the whole community, they will find here a people who have committed themselves to the best of our humanity.  They will find a community that rejects being assigned the role of victim or survivor or casualty.  Instead, they will find a community that has grown closer through heartbreak.  And from that very heartbreak, we have become a community that has committed itself to becoming a role model of compassion, resilience and service to others.  In ways we never expected, we have become a community that shines a light of hope and renewal in a dark time.

 

gratitude-4521At a time in our country when a number of serious crises have led to an anxiety that feeds despair and extremism, Newtown is showing that there is a better way.  We can reach for the “better angels of our nature” as Lincoln called another generation to after our nation’s most devastating ordeal.  We can seize on our compassion and generosity of heart in times of great loss and become more instead of less.   We can take added comfort and strength from the bonds of unity that result.  Our hearts are indeed filled with grief, but we can choose to suffer successfully and become more.

 

307681_4602101649190_1206300442_n In the final analysis, grief is a form of love.  It is love’s anguish for the absence of the beloved.  The task of grief is to find a way to honor that love in a new way.  This is impossible and our growth is undermined when anger or fear impede the course of love in their harmful ways.  This is where the gift of love that this fund represents offers its healing and opportunity for growth.   The response that honors the love this gift represents, the response that transmutes the heat of the fire of anguish into the light of personal growth and unity with others, is gratitude.

 

 

 

 

The Basics of Resilience

The Basics of Resilience

The Basics of Resilience

We all want the best for our kids, especially after 12-14. These videos are introductions into the basics of building resilience presented in easy to understand language without clinical or academic jargon.

This first video is on “The Basics of Resilience.” It was put together with the help of Sandy Hook Promise as part of a larger effort to get important information out to the community after the tragic shooting that shook our town. These videos will be followed up by a public talk on building resilience that I’ll be giving in the auditorium at the Newtown Middle School on April 11 at 7:00 p.m..

644694_480753318658865_899854966_n More than information, we want to develop essential resilient skills to apply in our lives. To do this, the Unity Project has sponsored resilient skill building workshops that began in the spring of 2013. These workshops are held in homes with up to 20 participants. We want to have a new and better kind of conversation to get through the terrible difficulties we all face in our families and community as a result of 12-14 and as a nation. These workshops will help build the skills we need to have that kind of conversation and bring about a transformation that can help to create the culture of peace we all want for our kids.

Related Videos in This Series:

Your Kids Need You This Year

Your Kids Need You This Year: Part II

 

Compassion or Conflict: Take Your Pick

From Newtown to a New America: Creating a Culture of Peace