#26Acts

http://todaynews.today.com/_news/2012/12/18/15975855-26acts-of-kindness-you-can-do-right-now?lite

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Incredible. That is all I can say. This is why I started my blog. Words cannot describe how happy I am that people are reaching out with acts of kindness all over the world to honor the little ones and teachers who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. We lost 26 people who undoubtedly would have brightened our world with their huge hearts and kind spirits. Last night I was reading the book, The Giver, and it reminded me so much of the events of the past week. So much can be taken from this book and I will certainly write many more posts referencing it, but one thing I immediately realized was how much the main character, Jonas, does something similar for his community that the 26 lives we lost at Sandy Hook are doing for us.

Here is the basic premise for The Giver, for those of you who haven’t read it. A twelve-year-old boy, Jonas, lives in a community with no war or fear or pain, but also no choices. Everyone is assigned a mate, a job, basically a life. The weak are “released” from society, which Jonas finds out means they are lethally injected. Jonas is assigned the job of “The Receiver” which is a great honor in his society and basically means that he will be given all the memories of the past worlds: love, pain, war, color, kindness, family, etc so that he can bear this “burden” and help his community continue to live in a world of “Sameness.” In order to save the community, he must escape to Elsewhere (which is outside the community-basically like our world with color and love and pain) so that the memories which The Giver has passed to him will be released to the general community, forcing them to deal with things like pain, but also helping them gain back color, joy and most importantly love, in their world.

It is my belief that when we lost those 26 lives at Sandy Hook, their memories were released to the world, just like Jonas’ were to his community. So, we must suffer from the pain of watching a gunman bust into a school and strip it of far too many innocent lives, because they had to go through that. But, more than anything, they have released so much goodness into our world. The more we hear stories about these 26 incredible people, the more we know how much kindness each and every one of them contained within themselves. Their memories are released to us, and we are all the better because of it.

A memory of a roll down a hill as we giggle and delight in the uneven earth as it grazes our backs. A memory of a door held open for a stranger, seeing surprise in his eyes. A memory of feeling so much love for our students that we find the courage and strength to shield them from a monster. One of the warmth of a mother’s hand as she strokes our cheek and tells us everything is going to be alright. Another of jumping on the bed, feeling the springs beneath our toes and watching closely around the corner to see if mom and dad are coming. A memory of hugging a sibling who’s crying and we don’t know why, we just know that the most important thing is to be with them. One of family. One of love. One of bewilderment. One of jubilation.  One of mischief. And many, many of kindness.

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The random acts we are witnessing more and more every day result directly from their departure from our world. We have them to thank for making this world a better place in as little as a week. They are up there painting our world with bright reds and blues and yellows. Let’s keep this going.  Life was too short for them. They deserved many more years to grow brighter. It is now our responsibility to keep their flames ignited. May we never, ever lose their light.

Amazing Grace

“Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton, a slave trader turned preacher who found God one night during a horrible storm that threatened to sink his ship and used his newfound faith to inspire others for the rest of his lifetime and many more thereafter.

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It is the most sung, most beloved hymn in the world and many would argue that it is the most famous song in history. “Amazing Grace” was sung by both sides of the Civil War. It rang through the air the day Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream. It was played when the Berlin Wall came down and heard throughout the world during the devastating events of 9/11. “Amazing Grace” echoed through the superdome when the Saints entered for the first time after Hurricane Katrina. And more recently it has been played during concerts to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy and to try to provide some comfort after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

In my last post I wrote about the irony between the origins of the name”Sandy” and the tragic events which share that name: Hurricane Sandy and the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. After learning about the origins of the name and hearing the song “Amazing Grace” play again after the president’s speech regarding the most recent Sandy tragedy, I decided to set out on an endeavour to write a poem that could be sung to the tune of “Amazing Grace” because through it all, this is the one thing that gives us hope. John Newton’s song has touched so many as will the tragic events of Newtown, Connecticut. Yet another name is shared. Newton’s hymn will lend support to the people of Newtown because it speaks of a comfort which can be provided even in the most desperate of times.

If you or anyone you know enjoys singing, please submit a video/recording singing the below hymn in memory and support of those affected by Superstorm Sandy and the Sandy Hook shooting. Please email submissions to me at: ksegar01@gmail.com and I will repost them to my blog. Children are encouraged to submit as well. Let’s give Sandy/Sandy Hook victims hope and faith during this time of desperation.

Sandy Grace

A hymn to be sung to the tune of “Amazing Grace.”

&& A poem dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting

By: Kelly Segar

Amazing Grace, how sweet it sounds,
The hymn that brings us hope.
Through times of trouble it’s been found
To show us how to cope.

What’s in a name, that which we call
A school or superstorm?
To be the one which hooks us all,
And causes us to mourn.

Sandy means something we can’t see:
“Defender of mankind.”
And though this soaks in irony,
There lies a gift behind.

It’s hard to notice the divine
When devastation reins.
Homes sunken in Atlantic brine
And tear-soaked cheeks of pained.

Forty little hands join in line,
Through heaven’s gate they run.
And six brave heroes watch them shine
As God’s embrace is won.

Though on us now hardship befalls,
We’ve also been relieved.
As acts of kindness break through walls,
We find strength to believe.

Amazing Grace, how sweet it sounds,
The hymn that brings us hope.
Through times of trouble it’s been found
To show us how to cope.

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*Through heaven’s gate they run*

What’s in a Name?

It’s hard to ignore the fact that the superstorm which ripped apart the entire east coast and the school which recently had 26 precious lives torn from it share the same name: Sandy. This got me thinking and so I decided to look up the origins of the name. According to multiple resources, the name Sandy derives from the Greek “Alexandros” which means “Defender, Helper of Mankind.” To many, the irony in this is remarkable. How can two tragedies, occurring within months of each other, bear a name that means something seemingly so safe and uplifting? If anything these events have severely damaged mankind, not defended it, right?

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There are no words that could explain what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. No way to justify how or why such a horrific event could have occurred. These are children we are talking about. The most defenseless, innocent creatures on this earth. How do we gain closure from something this? The truth is, we don’t. When events like this, which we cannot possibly wrap our minds around, occur, we must rely on the only thing in the world that helps us get through the inexplicable: faith. Faith is accepting that there is something that will help us get through that which we cannot explain. Faith is knowing that it’s not fair that these innocent little angels have been snatched from their families, but still sharing their stories and not letting anger prevent the world from seeing the light each wonderful little jewel will add to the starry nights. Faith is knowing that signs are given, miracles do occur, and everything can’t just be chalked up to coincidence.

If you don’t have faith in a higher power then have faith in this. There is good all around us. Good lies within ourselves. We see it in the thousands of fundraising efforts to help those who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy: Strangers opening up their homes to those needing a warm place to sleep; people joining together to clean up mountains of debris and help dig up precious remains of horrified homeowner’s lives.

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We hear it in the stories of the victims of Sandy Hook. Daniel Barden was seven years of pure goodness. His father laughed in an interview reminiscing about how many times he would be halfway across the parking lot and look back to see his son holding open doors for strangers. The same goes for 27-yr-old teacher, Vicki Soto, who died shielding her students from the killer. Although she had many more years to become jaded by the evils of the world than Daniel did, this did not stop her goodness from shining through.

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Goodness does not have to be learned in school.  Nor does it have an expiration date. It is something we are born with. But, it is also something that must be worked for. We can’t take it for granted because there are, unfortunately, some evil people in the world. Not many, but more than we would wish for. The majority of people lie in a constant struggle between good and evil. That’s life. We are faced with decisions every day. It is up to us to decide whether or not to do the right thing.

As one teacher said to comfort her class of frightened children, “the good guys are coming.” Believe in the good guys. Know that there will always be people out there willing to help. But also know this: the most important “good guy” to rely on is yourself. Have enough faith in yourself to realize that you can make a difference in this world. As our president said in a heartfelt speech about the victims of Sandy Hook, we must “make our country worthy of their memory.” That starts with you.

It is true that the events of the past few months have been disturbing, confusing, and heart-wrenching. How can we believe mankind is being defended while encountering such devastating things as hearing of a group of extremely young children has been massacred by a maniac or helplessly watching on as Mother Nature pummels through towns, leaving thousands of people homeless? The shared Sandy name just doesn’t seem like something that can be taken as anything more than ironic coincidence. But, what about what has happened in the aftermath? People have come together in the past few months in ways that we haven’t seen comparable since 9/11. Perhaps what the Sandys have shown us is this: mankind needs help. Mankind needs defending. We don’t have faith in things like we used to. Trust seems like such a rare treasure to find.  Hope is drowning beneath our disbeliefs and paranoia. Our society grows colder by the day. It shouldn’t have to take devastating events to bring us together as human beings. We can see the goodness in the world through all the heroic stories being uncovered each day and in all the support we provide to one another during difficult times like these. It’s time we didn’t let the “Pay it Forward Train” come to a sudden hault eight months down the line when the wounds of the past few months are no longer fresh in our hearts. Keep that engine rolling. It is the only thing that will defend mankind. In order to prevent any more Sandys from occurring, we must become our own Sandy.

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Our hands will join and our pockets will open to help rebuild the homes lost to the water and wind of Superstorm Sandy.

Our hearts will weep in constant memory of those lost at Sandy Hook Elementary. May God watch over those precious angels and their families now and forever.

God bless. Have faith.  Be strong. Do good.