Whenever I think about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, I am brought to tears. All those innocent children, the heroes who sacrificed their lives for their students, the families who are sure to have a difficult Christmas. There are not words. Each shooting we hear about seems more awful than the last and to me, their frequency is increasing. Too much focus on all of that, plus the media, our justice and healthcare systems, and whom those children were and could have been, make my head spin and the tears flow. I've been trying to deconstruct the bigger picture. I'm trying to think about the way I live my life. I think about all the people I've loved (many of them children), the lives I've touched (and haven't yet) and the future. This, at least, seems easier.
Today I was at a holiday party; my BFF's extended family accepted me as 'one of the cousins' so many years ago. It's an annual tradition. My favorite part about it is the kids. Today, it was even more important. I stood back a moment and watched them. I watched them dance and laugh and interact with each other and with adults. I felt lucky even to know them. I feel grateful that despite the fact that I see many of them only once a year, they feel like family. I realize today that this connection, this once a year family day is something I took for granted. It reminds me that I am incredibly fortunate.
Over the last 10+ years, I have had the pleasure of babysitting some really amazing children. I was also a camp counselor for about 6 years. There are some children I had in my group at camp over the years that I'll never forget. I am still telling stories about some of them. There was G, who was 10 years old and had parents going through a bitter divorce. He was a mean kid, and one day after he was nasty to a little girl I took him aside and talked to him. He broke down in tears, telling me about his parents. They were fighting over him and his little brother, trying to one-up each other with presents and vacations. He was living with his grandma because it was too dangerous to be home. He was scared and sad. No one had talked to him. I told him when he had hard days, to tell me and he could have a "cool down" activity. That if he was feeling scared, he just had to tell me and I would listen. He did not act up the rest of the summer. * There was A, the little blondie who whas just barely 4 and was my favorite. We bonded instantly. People always said "he could be yours!" H, with ADHD. Kids I think about often, wondering where they are, what happened to them, what are they like now? The past few years I've been babysitting and met amazing families. Kids like R, who made me laugh out loud all the time, G&T who felt more like a niece and nephew. A new brother/sister duo A&S who are smart and fun. I don't have my own children yet, but I have the great pleasure of knowing some really great ones. I had an impact on their lives, and they, more profoundly I think, impacted mine. It reminds me that I am incredibly fortunate.
My last post On Friendship was aptly timed. It was a reflection on a kind of unconditional, long-lasting friendship. I've had life-long friends, nights of binge eating and gut-busting laughter, adventures and experiences. I have even been lucky enough to inherit some friends from Ethan, many of whom have quickly become very near and dear. Even at work, I have made friends that have lasted through job changes and made office life easier. Last year I had a New Year's resolution to hand-write and send one letter a month to a friend. I think I stopped around April. My plan is to do it again this year, and make it through December. Sometimes I have found myself in a situation where I feel like a friendship is one sided. It made me mad sometimes, to think that I was giving 100% and yet I still felt like the back-burner friend. As I get older, I realize that it doesn't matter so much. It's always better to give than receive. I don't allow myself to be taken advantage of, but I focus more on being there and less on what I'm getting (or not). I've weeded out most of the toxic people in my life and have a network that is positive and loving and supportive. Ethan and I had dinner with some of them last night. It reminds me that I am incredibly fortunate.
I have my dad close by. My brother is well cared for. I have an amazing husband who has shown me a love like I've never known. His family is big and warm and welcoming. There are many adorable children. In the next few years, (despite my worry about bringing a child into a world that seems so toxic sometimes) we'll finally gift our parents with grandchildren, and carry on the legacy of big, loud Thanksgivings, a Santa-only Christmas tree, and spangled eggs (yes, spangled. Only my husband will get that one). I have a roof over my head, a warm place to sleep, an amazing career and food on the table. On any given night, watching the news always reminds me that I am incredibly fortunate.
My tribute to Sandy Hook is this: to live life to its fullest. To tell my husband I love him every day, more than once. To write letters to my friends, send birthday cards even if I don't get any in return, and start volunteering (I'm joining the Boys and Girls Club Alumni Association) to keep impacting the lives of children. I'm going to work hard at my job and excel at it. I will wake up in the morning and count my blessings. I will hug a teacher. I'm not going to talk about guns, or mention the names of this shooter and the countless others. I will remember the names Dawn, and Victoria and Charlotte and Daniel. I will show them that this world can be good. This is how I will honor them. I am incredibly fortunate.