My contribution for 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. #1000speak
When you’re witness to the worst nightmare possible as our town was with the Sandy Hook shooting, you would think it would be impossible to ever feel anything but overwhelming sorrow and grief ever again.
And yet, in the after, what I recall is the overwhelming sense of love and compassion that flooded our streets and went to work to heal our broken hearts.
In the after, compassion flowed into and out of Newtown. The gift of time so generously given by grief stricken visitors, as well notes of remembrance, money, prayers, resources, art, snowflakes, love, and mementos.
It was frankly, overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. For me, I speak only for me.
Acts of kindness were everywhere: people graciously gave, paid, smiled and hugged, giving a tiny piece of them in hope to ease our collective pain. We felt it, we did, the warm embrace of the world at our doorstep.
Too many of us think about doing something, saying something, but fail to muster the courage to do anything at all. Of this, I am very guilty. We promise to write later, call later, visit another time; I should have, I wanted to, I wish I spoke, said, done something, yet I didn’t know what to do. You don’t have to do much, but do something. Any act of compassion no matter how small, matters. It matters to the giver and to the receiver.
You will forever regret doing nothing. I do. And yet you’ll never regret doing something – anything at all – and your tiny compassionate act can change lives and heal broken souls. This much I know.
Don’t underestimate the power of a kind word.
There is no limit to the healing effects of love.
What I remember most, in the after, is not the national spotlight glaring on our town from well meaning celebrities, corporations, presidents, and media, but instead, the small acts of compassion from people whose names I didn’t know, faces I barely recognized in my grief.
Tiny touches that left an indelible mark. A note from a long-lost friend. A trip to the diner when I could not eat. A text from a client. A smile in a check-out line. A tearful hug from a stranger. Are you from Newtown? “I’m so sorry. So very, very sorry.”
“You may not know me, but …” might be the beginning of something so beautiful.
In the after, thousands and thousands of people sent notes, letters, and cards of compassion. They were read, shared, photographed, and chronicled. So that a million, ga-billion years from now people will know the compassion the world was capable of.
For me, even more powerful than these beautiful notes and cards was touch.
The physicality, the realness, of another person: a held-hand, a hug, the light touch by someone who wants you to hurt a little less. The touch of the shoulder, a hand on a wrist. Eye-contact lasting longer than necessary, reaching to my very heart. Just being. Sitting side-by-side, alone together, in silence.
This is kindness. This is compassion.
I see you. I feel you. You are not alone.
In Newtown, in the after, there was a small, vibrant community campaign of We Are Sandy Hook. We Choose Love. We choose love. It’s not just words here, it’s a way of life. Newtown Kindness is real. Love wins.
In the after, it would be too easy to hate. To blame. To accuse. Instead, we choose to rise above the horror, and whenever and where ever possible, choose love. We may not always succeed, but we will always try to first and foremost, choose love.
*To see how love wins in Newtown and Sandy Hook, visit the many compassionate, caring organizations that were born from tragedy, yet committed to kindness. You can find them here.