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On Being Better

December 18, 2012

There aren’t words to describe how I’ve felt, how anyone’s felt in the wake of last Friday’s shootings in Newtown. To try to put my fear, my anxiety, my rage, my sadness into words would be foolish, impossible, and, quite frankly, ridiculous. I cried pretty much all weekend, which I’m not sure is an overreaction or totally normal. I spoke to my best friend, Nicole, at least twice a day; she lives in Newtown, and her mom was a teacher at Sandy Hook for over fourteen years (she transferred to another school this past fall). I listened to her talk about her sheer disbelief that this was happening in her town, to people she knew. I told her how scared and helpless I felt as a teacher and, if we’re being honest, a human being. I went to kickboxing and kicked the shit out of the bag. I went to the gym and ran as hard and fast as I could. I pinned pictures of puppies for a long, long time. I sunk myself into school work and errands and silly Christmas movies. I obsessively watched CNN and, just as I started to feel sick to my stomach, turned it off and swore never to turn it back on again (cycled on repeat for days).

In other words, I think I reacted the way a lot of people did to this unspeakable, unimaginable horror. When an event is so overwhelming that you have no idea how to deal with it, you obviously don’t deal with it in any clear, sensible, linear fashion. It’s fine to tell myself that how I reacted (and am still reacting) is normal, but honestly, I don’t think it’s enough.

On one of my hard and fast escapist runs, I found myself switching back and forth between two polar opposite trains of thought: this outlook, so brilliantly and honestly parodied by The Onion just hours after the shooting, and the thought that I want and need to be doing something meaningful. I wracked my brain for ideas, but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly I wanted to do. Volunteer? Raise money? Donate supplies? There are so many options that it seems overwhelming to pick what and where and how you want to help. The whole thing seems counterproductive. I don’t want to waste time making decisions; I want to freaking DO SOMETHING.

Then Ali wrote this post this morning, and it clicked. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. Ann Curry suggested that we commit to 20 mitzvahs or acts of kindness for each of the children who were killed on Friday; Ali and some other folks suggested that we bump it to 26 to also honor the adults who lost their lives. I love that this is all encompassing; an act of kindness doesn’t need to be groundbreaking. It can be so small, so simple, so intimate and personal—and while it will not change what happened, and it won’t bring these people back, and it won’t prevent something like this from happening again, it feels like I’m doing something, anything to feel better. To be better. And to hopefully inspire others to want to be better as well.

I don’t know that I’ll make any resolutions this year. Right now it seems awfully trite to set the generally superficial goals that I set for myself each December. Maybe I’ll change my mind. But for right now, the only thing I want to commit to are these 26 acts of kindness. I don’t know when I’ll complete them by, I don’t know what they’ll be quite yet, but I hope they’re a start of something bigger and better than myself.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2012 10:29 pm

    I totally and completely agree with everything you’ve written here – and my post tomorrow is about basically – this. I’m so glad your friend and her family are safe. I have friends who teach in Newtown and another who is from there (I bet my friend and your friend know each other because the world is thissmall) and it’s devastating. I found Ann Curry’s acts of kindness last night on the internet and it struck a chord. “Oh, right. I can do something, and it might not be big, but it’s something.” I also saw a picture of a teacher who was doing the 26 acts with her students and they’d write them on the board everyday, which I freaking loved – so there’s that too. All I know is that I’m so excited and proud to be a teacher, and if I could reach to Maryland, I would give you a big giant hug 🙂

    • December 20, 2012 7:00 am

      Hugging you right back, Erin, and glad to hear I’m not alone in this (I know I’m not, but it’s easy to feel isolated, isn’t it?)

      I’m brainstorming ways to get my kids involved, too. We’re not “supposed” to be discussing the tragedy with the kids, but I think the acts of kindness are beyond worthwhile. Right now my plan is to donate ten cents for each of my students to a children’s charity and give them a little mint or candy cane, then ask them to pay it forward. Some of them won’t, but I think a lot of them will.


  1. 2013 « Go With the Dough

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