“Responding to the Tragedy in Newtown”
December 19, 2012
Many of us are struggling with feelings of sadness, anger, and helplessness following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It’s important to remember that there are as many ways of responding to this kind of tragedy and horror as there are people. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to respond! Grief follows its own course. No two people experience grief the same way.
Children express grief sometimes by withdrawing, or regressing (e.g. becoming “clingy,” or doing other things we –and they—thought they’d outgrown). They may run and play, but still be grieving. Outward appearances don’t tell the whole story of what our children and youth (or we ourselves) are experiencing. Sometimes grief is expressed as anger or becoming either risk-averse or engaging in extreme risk-taking. Grief can sometimes sneak up on us, coming over us when we least expect it to. As Christians, we might find ourselves asking “where was God?” even as we affirm in our faith that God was right there, in the midst of all that happened and is still happening in Newtown, and in our lives as well.
That this tragedy occurred so close to Christmas is making it hard for some of us to feel the spirit of Christmas; yet we might also be sensing, as we continue to read our Bibles, as we continue to pray our Advent devotions and as we continue to sing our songs of expectation, that “this is the same world Jesus came into so long ago—the world that now awaits him with longing hearts as Christmas once again draws near.”
As we wait for Christmas, here are some other things we can do….
…20 Acts of Kindness. To honor the memory of the children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many people have found solace in doing “20 Acts of Kindness” for people they know and those they don’t. Prompted by a tweet from NBC’s Ann Curry, the “20 Acts of Kindness” movement is spreading across the country and around the world. Every act of kindness we do transforms the world, starting with the worlds we occupy—our own hearts, our own needs to know the love of God, and to share that love with others.
…Simplify Christmas. If there are some things that you usually do at Christmas, but don’t feel like doing this year, give yourself permission to not do them. Save them for next year. Instead, see if there is something you really want to do, or people you really want to be in touch with—and act on it. Make the extra phone call this Christmas, and try especially to be in touch with people you know who live alone, and/or who have experienced some great loss this past year. Reach out to those who are on active duty, or who have returned from active duty, and make a point of letting the people in your lives know how much you love and appreciate them.
…Guard your eyes. An old monastic tradition and spiritual practice, guarding our eyes in today’s world might mean turning off the TV, limiting the amount of time we spend on the internet, and being mindful of what movies we see. Choose instead to look at things that nourish the mind and heart and spirit. Go for a walk and take in the winter sights; visit your favorite museum or art gallery; go to or tune your TV to a PG- or G-rated film that you find uplifting; read that book or poetry collection you’ve been wanting to read.
…Pray and act on what needs to change in each of us and in our country. Pray for our leaders. Learn which corporations (including media) profit from violence in any form, and write to express your views, or boycott their products. See if you own any holdings in these companies (through mutual funds, retirement accounts) and express your views on violence to their leaders (or consider divesting).
..Take time to savor the good things, too, in things large and small. Keep your eyes open for the joy that is around you, waiting for you to notice it, and to savor it in your heart. Take care of yourselves, and those you love, and have a holy and blessed Christmas.