Before beginning my position as a clinical social worker in the School Based Health Center at Family Centers, I spent a few years working at Newtown Youth and Family Services. When I heard the news of what happened on December 14, 2012, I immediately called my former supervisor and asked how I could help.
We spent the weekend fielding hundreds of phone calls from across the nation wanting to give. Give time, give money, give toys, food, or counseling. We met with community members who were so connected to the tragedy that had just occurred and spoke with them at length. We facilitated organizing crisis agencies to assist over the coming weeks. We provided comfort and support to those who needed it most.
When you drive up the winding roads of Trumbull through Monroe and into Newtown there stands a giant flagpole surrounded by a quaint town theatre and country deli. At this time of year, it's usually decorated with giant green wreathes and bright red bows with single candles in the windows. This year, they were replaced by news vans, vacant shocked faces, friends huddled in coffee shops crying, walking past the town Christmas Tree in a fog.
To live in any town in Fairfield County is to be connected to every town in Fairfield County. It seems we all know someone who was intimately affected by what happened on that Friday. While now certainly is the time to mourn, the more important questions is: what next?
The world seems poised for a conversation about guns and violence, parenting and troubled children. Though these topics deserve their space and time, do they serve a purpose in moving us forward?
How do we move on? How do we heal? On so many levels we have been impacted by a singular persons destruction, none more so than the families of those who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School. There are however things we must do in the coming months...one of which is live. Though the anxiety of sending your child to school may be overwhelming: put them on the bus.
We must show our children that though life comes with great pains, sometimes unimaginably so, it comes with great joy and that we navigate through the worst of things, to arrive at something better. We know that children are resilient, and though they may feel sad, scared, confused or anxious, by showing them that every morning the sun will come up, the bus will come, and dinner will be made, we are creating a comfort in this structure and a model of how to move forward.
We may struggle with our feelings, both adults and children, and it is important to acknowledge them. To be sad, angry, confused, to cry, to want to be held, these are normal. It is what we do with those emotions that matter. Talk about how you are feeling, go for a run, or a swim. Color. Paint. Sing. Breathe.
There is a joy in children, one that cannot be replicated by another creature in this world. They love with whole hearts: horses, puppies, orcas, siblings, parents. They embrace with such joy a football game, a wrestling match, karate. They carry supplies to write notes for friends; they color in journals about how they love their mama. These qualities are what I imagine inspired the adults who gave their lives for those children, to be there in the first place. It is by carrying their spirit of joy, of kindness, of thoughtfulness forward that healing will truly come.
That flagpole once marked my travels to and from Marist College, to and from my friends' homes in high school and, later on, to and from work.
To see this fixture at half-mast -- in honor of those children whose laughs now only echo in our minds, who's smiles are frozen in frames, who's love and spirit will reverberate in our community --was heartbreaking. But I have to believe that every act of kindness, no matter how small ripples through the world to change the balance back in our favor.
Amanda Harmon is a clinical social worker at Family Centers School Based Health Center at Rippowam Middle School in Stamford. Serving Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Westchester County, NY, Family Centers is a United Way, New Canaan Community Foundation and Community Fund of Darien partner agency that offers counseling and support programs for children, adults and families. For information, call 203-869-4848 or visit www.familycenters.org.