There are no adequate words to describe the horror that took place in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, no way to ease the heartbreak that the families of the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School are being forced to endure during this, what is supposed to be the most joyful season of the year.
Instead of pageants, caroling, baking and gift-wrapping, their task will be to bury their dead, to mourn their loss of innocence.
In the wake of such an incomprehensible act, most of us have felt a hollowing numbness. For, despite the overwhelming urge to explain, to solve, to blame someone, there is no easy answer. Gun control, mental health services, violence depicted in the media…all or none of these things may have contributed to the actions or the young gunman’s mindset as he entered the school and killed 26 people, 20 of them children.
Whatever our theories are on the matter, the fact is we’ll never know what factors could have precipitated such an act.
What we do know is that, in the face of the unthinkable, many, many people showed the best side of human nature. From the teachers who sacrificed their own safety to protect their young charges to the workers on the front lines of emergency services, a list of heroes emerged from the tragedy, answering evil with bravery and compassion.
We would do well to remember that, thankfully, we don’t have to wait until crisis strikes to practice such ideals. In fact, we can be heroes many ways to many people, in many situations, every day. Our actions don’t have to be magnanimous, and sometimes they won’t even be acknowledged. Such acts can include – but don’t have to be – signing on as a volunteer with an established program or agency, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or the VON. Or it can be a small gesture, such as dropping of some clean socks and blankets at the Helping Hands Street Mission. For those of us who don’t have much, it can be visiting a senior in the community who needs someone to run errands. Whatever it is, we do have to step in, right wrongs when we see them, offer a hand when it is needed or even just see things from another person’s point of view and offer support. And not just during the holidays.
During the Christmas season, it is easy to participate in toy drives, food collections and fundraisers. And that participation is deeply appreciated; just ask the mom who has to rely on Mission Services to put gifts under the tree for her children, the family that receives a food hamper for their festive meal or the caregiver who gets a bit of respite thanks to a visiting program.
But in the cold, stark light of January, many in our community will continue to struggle with poverty, homelessness, mental illness, disability and loneliness. And the very agencies receiving a bounty of assistance in December will be scrambling to fill the gaps.
Hopefully, we will remember to carry our compassion through those days. We may not agree with life choices, government policies or even how a perfect society should look.
But we do need to understand that we have a role to play – and then play it, and teach our children and those around us by example.
Because, ultimately, heroes are our last line of defence when tragedy strikes. And we need to create more of them.
Hamilton Community News wishes all our readers all the peace and joy of the Christmas season.