Thursday, December 20, 2012

28 Acts

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, many people have been wondering what they can do to help.

There are many funds set up to assist the families of the victims and to honor the victims' memory. You can find a list here.

My reaction to this tragedy, however is to put Mother Theresa's words into action:
"Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go."

Radical compassion and random acts of kindness.

It's not a new idea. But it's gained popularity on Twitter this week.

Ann Curry's idea is to perform 26 acts of kindness to honor the dead from Newtown. But I'm adding two more, one for the perpetrator of this crime and his mother. They deserve to be remembered as well, for different reasons.

I want to get the whole family involved, so the girls and I brainstormed some ideas. Here's what we came up with:
1. Give someone a hug.
2. Pay for someone's drive through order.
3. Write notes of encouragement to teachers, police officers, paramedics, and firefighters.
4. Write notes of encouragement to friends and family.
5. Make cookies and pass out to strangers.
6. Clean the snow off a stranger's car.
7. Shovel someone's driveway.
8. Donate a book about being a peacemaker to area schools.
9. Make some snowflakes for Sandy Hook Elementary.
10. Be kind to someone who can be difficult to be kind to.

It's a small list, but these acts can make a big impact. Imagine if my list inspired you to do your own, how our kindness would multiply and touch our communities.

Now it's your turn! In the comments, tell about your own random acts, whether performed or received, and how they made you feel. Let's wage a kindness revolution!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We belong to each other

I want to extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to the community of Newtown, Connecticut. As a teacher and a mother, this tragedy shakes me and threatens everything I know to be true about life: that at their core, people are good, kind, and loving. We are just beginning to learn what motivated a young man to end the lives of so many innocent people. Heroes will emerge. Blame will be assigned. I encourage you not to judge the alleged perpetrator of this heinous crime, but instead pray for the victims, their families, and those who are connected to the response effort and investigation. Their lives will never be the same.

Image taken from Momastery.

I have been an educator for ten years in a handful of public and private schools in Illinois and Michigan. I've seen good and bad in each place. I've taught countless children successfully. But there are 5 students that I feel like I didn't reach despite my best efforts. Luis, Cole, Adrianna, Emily, Jacob. Whether their home life was unstable, they were struggling with undiagnosed learning disabilities, or they just didn't "click" with their classmates, their sad faces and rejection of my help still frustrates and saddens me. Even though I have helped so many, it's the ones I could not that I remember. I still think about them.

In the media storm that has followed this tragedy, it has been difficult for reporters to find people who could speak about the alleged gunman. This should surprise no one. The gunman who killed so many innocent children and was barely an adult himself seemed to have had little to do with his peers. He was isolated and alone. There is speculation of mental illness or Autism spectrum disorder. We will have more answers in time. But the take away lesson is this, a quote from Mother Theresa: "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

So this week, hug your kids a bit tighter. Bring cookies to your child's teacher. Write an encouraging note to your child's principal, school secretary, and school support staff. Find that kid from your child's class, the one everyone deems difficult, and talk to them. Invite them for a play date. Thank a police officer or first responder. Remember that we all belong to each other.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Magic

Everyone's favorite little red elf is back for more holiday fun! Eleanor, our Elf on the Shelf  arrived on December 1 and has been up to no good ever since. Check out the slideshow below to see what she's been up to so far. I add new pictures to the album every day so you can keep checking in on the fun!

I'd like to explain why we (OK, mostly I) go to all this trouble to create holiday magic for the girls. We are, after all, a Christian household and should be focusing on the REAL meaning of Christmas, right? My answer is simple: we do both.

We've been following our Jesse Tree devotional, which I wrote about last week. Our family focus is, and always will be, the birth of Christ and His presence and power in our lives. My kids have enjoyed listening to the stories of creation, the fall, Noah, and Abraham. They have heard these stories before, and the authors of the devotional do an excellent job of pointing these stories to Jesus. Our devotional time has become a special time, one that both the kids and Todd and I look forward to each day.

It's also important to teach the girls to believe in things which they cannot see or touch. This letter helps explain what I mean. Christmas isn't about a man in a suit. It's about people, coming together for generations, to show each other love through giving. It's bigger than you or me. It's about faith.

What magic comes to your house at Christmas?