I’m not a parent, but I can’t imagine a worse horror than losing a child to a violent crime. And for the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary, that’s the living nightmare they endured one year ago today.
When faced with such a seemingly senseless tragedy, it’s understandable that many people succumb to anger, bitterness and rage. Hell, such a thing could make you lose faith in humanity altogether. Forgiveness is hard to fathom when faced with the death of innocence — small children, whose lives were just beginning.
But that’s why I’m so inspired by the stories that have emerged from Newtown in the days since the shooting. Stories of forgiveness, hope and love. Many of the Sandy Hook parents have embarked on positive, life-affirming missions in honor of their children’s memories.
Jessica Rekos’ parents have raised money to help whales and horses — Jessica’s favorites.
Emilie Parker’s parents started the Emilie Parker Art Connection to fund art programs in schools and communities.
Catherine Violet Hubbard’s parents are starting an animal sanctuary in her honor.
It’s an inspiration. Seriously. Choosing to bring love to others in the face of pain and violence and horror is the bravest thing we can possibly do.
Jesse Lewis’ mother has launched the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation, designed to spread that exact message. The day Jesse was killed, his mother, Scarlett, found the words “nurturing healing love” on a chalkboard in his room. Not words a six-year-old typically uses, but scrawled in his handwriting nonetheless. So Scarlett has taken his last words and lived them.
The foundation’s mission is to get compassion-based curriculum into schools — something I think is a hell of a lot more important than teaching to tests or memorizing war dates. As they say on their Facebook page, “If we want a peaceful world we must become peaceful ourselves. Take responsibility for your peace.”
Scarlett Lewis had a choice between anger and love. She choose love. And so have many of the other parents who are putting their time and energy and emotions into causes that honor their children — and bring hope and happiness to others. If they can do it, so can we.
For most of us, the wrongs and slights we’re faced with forgiving are much smaller and less horrific than this, but important nonetheless. Every time we choose to lift others up, even in the midst of our own pain, we’re making a difference.
Choose love. In honor of the Sandy Hook children and so many others like them. Inspiring love is the most beautiful legacy anyone could hope to leave behind.