How We Can All Honor Newtown
This was me at six.
It's okay. You can laugh. As long as I don't hear you.
And you stop.
As you can probably tell, intense would have been a fair description. I was a serious kid; full-on frivolity didn't find me until MUCH later in life. (Partially, I blame the hair. And the height. And that outfit. Um, did anyone get the memo that I wasn't a boy?)
But beneath the shy exterior, or more importantly, in spite of it, the dreaming was already in full effect. I was hatching a plan to bust out of my small town, where I never felt like I fit in, move onto a bigger, more diverse experience, and write, although, even thirty-five years later, I'm still honing the details.
Those beautiful Newtown first graders? Brutally robbed of that luxury.
It was only after the school shooting last week that I realized I'd actually been to Newtown, more than once. Their Starbucks became our pitstop on visits to family, serving as the marker that we were almost there and it was safe to drink an iced coffee. And while, until last Friday, I never knew exactly where I was, the quiet rural countryside, peppered with historic homes, always reminded me of where I had been.
And now, those small children, forever frozen in time, remind big me of little me.
I have no doubt we shared the same unshakeable feeling of safety that comes from living in a small town. As well as the luxury to dream, a gift that comes directly from the calm, quiet and complete lack of urban stresses. We all stood in that magical place together, where barriers don't exist. Where nothing, either real or imagined, can slow you down.
But, as we all know, life gets in the way. There's mortgages. And car payments. And credit card bills. And obligations that you never even could have imagined when you were six. The dreams dry up. Or worse, we decide to kill them off ourselves--because it's less painful not to have dreams at all, than to believe that you'll never reach them.
We become angry. And bitter. And hate on those who have the luxury to live the life that should be ours, even though we're the ones to blame for not having the courage to take any risks. We look backwards, instead of ahead, pining for a time when we were young and innocent. And life was simple and perfect. We refuse to believe the best is yet to come. And there's so much to appreciate, if we could just look beyond the negatives.
Which brings us to what started as just another ordinary Friday in December, but ended as another wake-up call. Proving that life is fleeting and there are no guarantees. And just being alive is really all the power you need to pursue your passions. No matter what your age. No matter what your circumstances. And to me, there seems no better tribute to all of those first graders lost, both inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as the one that still lurks, deep within yourself.