Many of you who have been reading my blog since last December know that my friend Laura lives in Newtown, Connecticut.
I have never met Laura in real life. We have mutual friends, and started reading one anothers blogs in 2009. In fact, when I opened my Etsy shop in Fall of 2009, Laura was one of my first Etsy customers and I designed her family Christmas card that year (and have also made a couple more of her beautiful family since she first ordered from me in 2009).
Her 2 youngest children attend Sandy Hook Elementary School and her youngest son Luke was a 1st grader last year. As you know, the shootings happened in the 1st grade classrooms....but not his. His class was next door. They hid in the classroom supply closet as the shootings happened. He was safe, but a few of his friends were killed. The things he saw that day are things no 6 year old should EVER, EVER witness.
He wasn't physically scarred that day, but the emotional scars for him, the surviving parents & the community of Newtown run deep. Life will never be the same.
Last year, after the shootings, I decided to to 26 Acts of Kindness in honor of the 26 lives that were lost. I knew for 1 of my Acts of Kindness, I wanted to send dinner to Laura & her family, but since I am in California and they are in Connecticut, I thought I would order them pizza from their favorite pizza place. She told me not to worry about it, but I wouldn't take no for an answer.
I felt so helpless last December and wanted to help.
Read this post HERE to and the awesomeness of the 26th Act of Kindness & then come back to this post.
Laura & I email back & forth often.
As the 1 year anniversary of 12.14 approached, I emailed her to see what the people of Newtown needed. How could I help? Did they need more gift cards? ;)
Laura wrote back and said that their community needs prayer.
Just keep on praying for Newtown & the families of Sandy Hook.
Laura also asked if she could do a guest post on my blog to share about their experience.
I know many of you who read my blog donated to "gift card madness" so I know you will love reading her post.
Laura has a true gift with words.
Please welcome my friend, Laura:
Luke and Annie with their peanut butter panda puffs cereal, me with my third cup of coffee, and we shared our ideas of how we want to spend the date on the calendar that we can not avoid; the one that is quickly approaching.
My son's therapist suggested a beautiful way for him to honor his friends that have gone home to Jesus. We all feel good about this. We will write notes or draw pictures to our loved ones, tie them to a balloon, then send them up to heaven. It's a good idea I think, and my children have responded well to this. Luke, with more cereal on the table now than in his bowl, offers a suggestion; something he wants to do.
"I want to send a balloon up for everyone who died."
Then I, failing to remember his age; forgetting the little brain of his that has no way of truly recalling the horror of that day; my own ignorance to his innocence, reply,
"Sure. We can do that. We can get 26 balloons."
His spoon stops moving.
His eyes grow wide.
He has concern all over his face.
And in his seven year old voice, he asks in disbelief, "Twenty six people died????"
It's been nearly a year.
A year unlike any other.
He was right there.
He heard it. He lived it.
He mourns his loss of friends and teachers and school.
And yet, he had no idea. 26 people did die.
For our family, watching the news is not an option. We simply don't do it. It is not helpful. It is rarely accurate. And it changes nothing. Nothing released or reported will ever give us back what we lost. No news reporter, no hoaxer, no conspiracy theorist, no NRA representative, no anybody will ever do or say anything that will change the evil events of that day. Details and images will never heal those directly affected. Twenty six people died. Twenty six families hearts were dug out of their bodies. Twenty six balloons will go up to heaven. December 14 happened. We live with that, and we live on.
But it is a dark, true and ugly story.
Horror at its best.
Death and violence, the young and innocent the target.
What happened here was the work of the devil.
What followed with the conspiracy theorists was the work of the devil.
All the fear, sorrow, doubt, chaos, and confusion was, you guessed it, also the work of the devil. That's the bad news.
But the good news?
The devil is not the main character in this story. God is.
And this, my friends, is where you come in.
Still in shock. Filled with fear. Crying out to God. You heard our cry.
But you did more than listen.
You cried with us.
And then, you responded.
You responded in the only way a human being, born in the image of Christ our Lord, could possibly respond.
Within days after the shootings, the boxes began to arrive.
Mel, organized a world wide mission of compassion.
The simple goodness of her heart & her friends hearts to reach out to our community in an enormous way. She got the word out, opened hearts, and we were flooded with an overwhelming amount of generosity.
As we sat together, reading cards, and counting gift cards, and hugging teddy bears, my children would look at me and ask, "Mom, who sent this to us?" And shaking my head with my hand on my heart and tears wet on my cheeks, I would tell them, "I don't know. People who know what happened and who want to help us." And innocently, they would press me for more information..."But why mom???" And I would look them in their eyes and say, "Because everyone loves you."
It's always been about love.
We can not breathe or smile or walk or sing or sacrifice or eat or engage or contribute or be intimate or cry or help or support or laugh or encourage or teach with out it.
We need it to survive.
And in our moment of feeling like barely surviving, you poured out your hearts upon us.
You. Total strangers to me. Total strangers to my community. You reached out.
You dug deep into your own sorrow, and gave and gave and gave because you knew that the only way to heal your pain was to try to ease the pain of another.
You knew that the only response to evil was goodness.
You knew that the only way for us to see our way out of the dark, was to be the lamp at our feet.
You knew that if we felt too week to shine, you could be our light.
At a time where hatred and anger could so easily be born, you chose what our hearts are made for:
The ice cream, the jewelry, the cards, the blankets, the bears, the sneakers, the footballs, the artwork, the toys...they provided a great distraction for my little ones, and forced us to to not let go entirely of the Christmas feeling.
But as I sit here, a year later, the true works of goodness that you bestowed upon us truly have yet to be fully recognized. My brain still has yet to wrap itself completely around this picture.
What a blur it has all been, and looking back, I can only guess that it was nothing short of grace that carried us through.
Please know that many of the gift cards were handed out directly to our friends; to the siblings who lost a dear brother or sister.
We did our best to spread the love you so generously bathed us in.
My children took delight in dressing the bears up in green and white bows and handed them out to children they passed by.
Cold Stone Creamery's business here in Connecticut no doubt soared above their goal, thanks to all of you!
The Starbucks cards fueled us all and kept us warm in the cold winter.
I found comfort in dropping gift cards in mailboxes, hanging bags off of doorknobs, and passing the love on.
There is great healing in that.
And I am blessed to wear the most beautiful handmade necklace, reminding me to always SHINE. You, total strangers, proved that we are not total strangers at all. We are all brothers and sisters.
Many people, one body of Christ.
As we get closer to the anniversary of December 14, I wanted, on behalf of myself and my family, to say thank you.
Thank you for your generosity.
Thank you for your kindness.
Thank you for the selfless giving and beautiful example of what this world needs more of: Love and compassion.
I ask that you continue this mission you so willingly accepted; to spread the word... that God is good, and people are good, and that love conquers all.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Rom 8:28
Thank you, Laura for sharing your heart.
In 10 days it will be the 1 year anniversary.
In 21 days it will be Christmas.Know that we are praying for you, your family, your school, your town and your friends who lost their precious children.
May you feel God's presence during this difficult season.
Keep Loving Others and Keep SHINING.