December 14th marked the one year anniversary of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Last year, on that day, like every parent, I held my breath, mourned the loss of the innocent children, and held my own kids closer that night. A tragedy this close to Christmas, reminded me of the pain of seeing unopened gifts under the tree long after the ‘celebrations’ had ended for the rest of the world. A year later, as we paused to reflect on the day, and the families whose lives were changed in an instant, we were asked to “do a good deed” in memory of the children.
At school, I have the onerous task of bus duty almost every morning. This virtually consists of greeting children with a smile, directing traffic and trying to protect my rapidly cooling coffee from the harsh northern winds. However, every morning, I am awed by the life-lessons clearly demonstrated by a three-year little girl (let’s call her Grace). Each day, Grace and her mom walk her older brother and sister to school. Some days, Grace carries her own ‘baby’ with her, pushes a stroller or insists on carrying a little pink purse to match her little pink boots. However, Grace is never in a hurry. Regardless of the traffic, the bell, or my rapidly cooling coffee, she takes her time every morning to hug her brother and sister goodbye. She hugs them one at a time, kisses them both and tells them “Have a good day; I love you”. This is such a gentle daily ritual, something I’m sure she (or her family) have no idea that I consider myself privileged to observe. Every morning, as I watch her lovingly say ‘goodbye’ to her big brother and sister, I think back to the last thing I said to my kids before I hurried out the door. Was it “Don’t forget your permission form!”, was it: “You lost your gloves… again!”, was it “Don’t forget to brush your teeth!”… I wonder how many times, the last thing I say to my kids before heading out for the day is: “I LOVE YOU!” Life’s busyness gets in the way, and I forget to take the time for the things that are most important. Grace may be only three years old, but she has taught me a lesson I hope to never forget.
As Sandy Hook showed us, life can change in an instant; forever altered and shattered in a moment in time. I want to embrace life like Grace: with grace, patience, love, gentleness. This year, as I remember the families of Sandy Hook, I hope that I will always remember to hold my kids close, tell them I love them, and embrace the little moments in life.