The Need to Help

Everyone is aware of the horror that visited Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT last week. I first heard about it in between mall stops while I was Christmas shopping, and at that point, being still early in the day, no one really knew just how horrific it would turn out to be. Each time I got in the car and heard the latest update, I couldn’t believe it. It was far too much for anyone to bear, and I’ve done quite a bit of crying in the last several days.
My little guy just turned 8. Seeing all those little faces, so similar to my son and all his friends, left me by turns shocked, numb, angry, and aching so badly I thought it would never end. I haven’t shed this many tears in a long time. And then I think of the parents suffering through this and I start all over again. I can and can’t put myself in their shoes. I can because I am one of them, my child is still innocent and sweet and has his whole life ahead of him, and to lose him or my daughter would destroy me. And I can’t because I’m not experiencing such a devastating and wrenching loss. I am so grateful for that, and yet at the same time, I want to be with those parents and hold them and wish I could take away their pain. I can’t. No one can, ever. There’s only one thing that would ease their despair, and it’s not something any of us can give them.
The talk of gun control has reached an unbelievable crescendo, and that’s a good thing. I’m not going to go into that here though – I agree something needs to be done, but I don’t know exactly what that is. I don’t think anyone does at this point, but guns aren’t the only issue with this situation. The gunman was a very sick individual – normal, healthy, adjusted people don’t do these sorts of things. And that is another thing I’m hearing of in the aftermath – treating and recognizing mental illness and giving (or more importantly, not cutting off) the families of those afflicted the resources they need to deal with that issue.
But that’s also not why I wanted to share my feelings. I’m grieving as most of us are. I want to do something, anything, but I feel helpless. I’ve looked over the various funds that have sprung up and determined where I can send some money. It’s not a lot, but if it can provide someone with much needed grief-counseling, or expenses, or other support to survive this, I feel I’ve done something to help. But it doesn’t do anything to ease this need to help in some greater way.
I’ve made a lot of donations this year – clothes, food, toys. Our area was hit hard by Sandy in the fall, and we had so much and were so lucky, that I gave away bags and bags of things that others needed more desperately than my family did. I felt like I’d done something really productive – I helped feed and clothe a couple of families who lost everything, and I hopefully made the holidays a little brighter for children who would not otherwise have their usual holiday cheer.
But this is different. I feel powerless and weak, even as I click that Pay button. It just doesn’t seem like enough. I’ve thought of sending condolence cards, but then I think they’re probably getting hundreds of thousands of those. Then I saw the #26ActsofKindness trending on Twitter and dug a little deeper. I read Ann Curry’s tweets, and I realized this was something I could do to honor those lost in this senseless tragedy. I let people trying to make a left go, I let two people in front of me at the post office last night because I knew I’d take much longer than they. It’s not much, but it’s something, and I will keep it up – a way to remember the angels who needlessly lost their lives.
And maybe, since there are so many people doing this, we can learn to change ourselves, even if just a little bit, to be kinder, gentler people, it may have an even bigger impact on all of us in the long run. Those little children and the heroic teachers and administrators deserve to be honored in exactly that way.