By Maria D. James
Sandy Hook Elementary and the sense-less act that took 26 lives will forever be in our memories. In the days following the shooting, flags across the nation hung at half-mast and people wondered how to heal broken hearts. Three women are finding ways to heal hearts within their community.
On Tuesday, December 18th, NBC’s Ann Curry tweeted about conducting 20 Acts of Kindness, igniting a campaign that encouraged random acts of kindness in the name of each child lost at Sandy Hook Elementary. The virtual campaign took off and people across the United States posted pictures of their acts of kindness on Twitter using the hashtags #20Acts, #26Acts (which includes the heroic teachers who also lost their lives), and #26ActsofKindness. The simple question Curry asked was, “Are you in?” Isra Hashmi responded.
Hashmi, blogger and founder of the lifestyle website The Frugalette, was inspired to participate after she was the recipient of an act of kindness. “I came home one evening to find all my kids’ toys and bicycles on the front porch cleaned and organized,” says Hashmi. The mother of three says she instantly felt inspired to do more. “In our busy lives, knowing someone stopped to do something for us expecting nothing in return gave me hope and peace that there are still good people in the world.”
As a result, Hashmi blogged about her experience on (Read her article: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Newtown, CT #26Acts) and encourage other bloggers to participate as well. Hashmi says the response was overwhelming – over 20 bloggers were inspired to join the movement. Even Ann Curry retweeted her post. “When we feel the most helpless is when it’s the most important to give back,” says Hashmi.
Hope Alcocer, of Grand Rapids, Michigan agrees. The editor-in-chief of KHLOE Magazine, Alcocer remembers how she felt when the news broke. “We hear about bad news every other hour all the time, but the thought of 20 beautiful children plus their role models being killed just shook me to my core,” remembers Alcocer. “I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what would stand out to help this community and when I saw a very dear friend post her first act of the day, I felt led to partake as well.”
Since learning about the 26 Acts of Kindness Campaign, she has completed 4 of the 26 acts and has encouraged her family and boyfriend to also participate. “It’s so wonderful to see it have a ripple effect. I know that this movement has sparked an entirely new level of generosity and compassion within me that will drive me to do more,” says Alcocer.
Award winning children’s book author and presenter Julia Cook, is focused on healing the littlest hearts. She, along with her publisher, National Center for Youth Issues, will donate autographed copies of her book Grief is Like a Snowflake to each family affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy as well as a case of the books with the accompanying activity books to all of the Newtown, Connecticut schools.
Grief is Like a Snowflake discusses grief and how it is different for everyone. It is written through the eyes of child and contains tips for parents and educators as well. “It is my hope that this book might help the people of Newtown cope with what has happened,” says Cook.
Cook has a master’s degree in Elementary School Counseling. While serving as a school counselor, she often used children’s books to enhance her classroom lessons. She has presented in more than 800 schools across the country and regularly delivers keynote addresses at education and counseling conferences. Cook hopes to do character building sessions using her book with the Newtown School District.
Dr. Holly Parker, a lecturer on psychology at Harvard University and a clinical psychology postdoctoral resident in psychology at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, MA, provides three ways to recover from a tragedy:
- Keep living your life – Remember that avoidance actually hinders your progress.
- Don’t push away the thoughts – “Don’t assume you’re not supposed to be impacted by the tragedy. Be honest about how you feel,” says Dr. Parker.
- Talk to people you care and let them know how you feel – Dr. Parker says talking about your feelings or letting people know you’re available to talk can help in the healing process.
Dr. Parker has one more piece of advice. “It’s easy in a tragedy to lose faith in humanity, but hold on to your sense of hope.”
Maria D. James, is a contributing writer for print and online publications such as BlackEnterprise.com and UPSCALE Magazine. Known as the “Go Get IT Girl,” Maria encourages women to pursue their goals on her blog – http://gogetitgirl.wordpress.com. She lives in Washington, DC.