The unspeakable tragedy at an elementary school far away has caused me to consider today’s post in a different light. I was going to write about the newfound appreciation and respect I have for public school teachers now that two young women in my family have joined the ranks of the teaching profession. I was going to write about a program I’ve become involved with, tutoring first grade students who need a little extra help developing reading and math skills. And I was going to encourage those who read this blog to find a way to volunteer at a local school.
Compared to the ongoing challenges facing the students and teachers at Sandy Hook, niece Kelsey’s overwhelming task of teaching students with learning disabilities in the Milwaukee Public School District seems inconsequential. Stepdaughter Katie’s colossal effort to teach language arts to seventh graders in Denver seems diminished by the actions of teachers and staff in Connecticut who gave their lives to protect their beloved students.
The contributions of more than 400 volunteers in the Appleton School District, tutoring first grade students as part of the United Reading for Success Program and helping them improve their reading (and math) skills, pales as the names and faces of 20 precious first graders I never even met are locked in my brain forever—children who will never read another book, graduate from the sixth grade, play high school sports …
Wondering how to make sense of any of this—and it will never make sense to me—a journalist I have long admired provided an idea for moving forward. “Imagine if all of us committed to 20 acts of kindness to honor each child lost in Newtown?” Ann Curry tweeted. Her question took on a life of its own, with the hashtag #20Acts.
Considering that we are just days before Christmas, a time when so many of us are looking for ways to celebrate the season’s true meaning, the #20Acts movement has given me the push to “pay it forward” with random acts of kindness for the teachers like Kelsey and Katie, and also for students like the Horizons Elementary School first graders who read with me each week, in the name of the Sandy Hook students and teachers who will never know how many lives they have touched.
If you are able, maybe you can do something similar. And, if you like the idea, forward this post and share it with your friends and family. In the overused but under-appreciated words of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
How great would our world be if random acts of kindness replaced the random violence that fills our news?