Learning from the children of Sandy Hook
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Dec 20, 2012 | 594 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“It is only with true love and compassion that we can begin to mend what is broken in the world. It is these two blessed things that can begin to heal all broken hearts.”

― Steve Maraboli

Author and speaker

(b. April 18, 1975)

From “Life, the Truth and Being Free”


As a guy who has never been called Dad or Granddad, I can only imagine the depth of pain haunting the parents and families of 20 defenseless children whose lives were taken six days ago in an elementary school called Sandy Hook and a community named Newtown.

Senseless tragedies such as the one that came to this peaceful Connecticut hamlet, and which brought a country to its knees, can happen anywhere. The ugly head of violence follows no predictable pattern as it knocks on the front door of community after community after community with heartwrenching indiscretion.

Even the heroic actions of good people — most recently, six educators and school staff — could not halt this unbeckoned approach of evil. And in the end, even the gunman — and his own mother — died on an average New England morning whose beauty came on the hope of a rising sun, the vibrance of an ocean-blue sky, and the radiance of little smiles and innocent laughter.

Inexplicable acts like that which taunted Sandy Hook reinforced what we already know.

We love, and we need love.

We believe, and we need others to share our beliefs.

We don’t always understand, so we ask for answers.

We sometimes take life for granted, and we rely on others to give it fulfillment.

We often feel lonely, yet we are never alone.

News stories like the shootings at Sandy Hook teach us all a little about ourselves. One of my lessons was that people who consider newspaper editors to be heartless are wrong ... because mine, as the rest of America’s, is broken.

Unlike some, yet very much like others, I cannot sit and watch the unending TV news coverage. Like everyone, I want resolution but not at the cost of deepening the hole that has tunneled its way to corners of my very soul ... areas that, until now, I thought to be unreachable.

I read media accounts from Sandy Hook daily. I edit many of our own. Only the hardest of hearts would come away unmoved. I can’t explain it, but on Wednesday morning I sat at my desk designing the front page. While penciling in a story by staff writer Joyanna Weber, I felt hot tears welling up in what I knew were reddening eyes.

I had pulled up photographs on the computer of a group of second-graders from Park View Elementary School who were visiting the elderly residents of Morningside of Cleveland. Instead of exchanging gifts with one another, these tiny youngsters had brought presents to the folks at the assisted-living home.

I scanned their faces. I melted at their smiles. In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, I guess I have felt a grandfather’s affection for our smallest of Bradley County residents — especially when I see them doing what kids do best ... laughing, playing, getting underfoot and having fun.

Seeing their joy takes my mind back to Connecticut and our distant neighbors in Newtown. They deserved so much better.

And this is when I become angry.

As our newspaper offered in an editorial in Tuesday’s edition, guns are one of the problems without doubt. But gun control is only a steppingstone. Granted, it’s a big steppingstone, and frankly I’m hoping the National Rifle Association brings some tools for sustainable change in what the organization is billing a “major news conference” Friday in Washington, D.C. According to a public affairs statement, “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

To quote our own editorial, “Guns are the tool. But society is the weapon.”

If it were my decision, I would ask President Obama, Congress and the NRA to revisit reality and use Sandy Hook Elementary School as the latest in a long series of painful lessons to create substantial change in gun control.

Yet, guns are only one problem. Society is another.

As a people, we are changing. We are impatient. We are less tolerant. We are more stressed. We are frustrated. We walk in crowds. We drive in congestion. We are challenged at every turn with a new cost for that and the latest increase for that. We face health risks, road rage, short tempers, money fears, retirement woes, culture shock, war fatigue and job loss.

In 1989, I left newspaper work after a 12-year hitch. I returned 21 years later. Suddenly, I was exposed to more people with deeper problems. It has taught me this. People are too rushed. Society’s demands are too great. It’s a keg of gunpowder waiting to explode and the fuse is getting shorter.

I wish I had an answer for the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I wish I could comfort the hurt and wipe away the tears of those whose hearts bear the weight of such a cruel and merciless burden.

But I can’t. Few humans can.

Yet, surrendering to the chaos around us would mean giving up on life.

And that’s not what people do. It’s not who we are. It’s not why we’re here.

Maybe it’s time we try listening to the children.

Perhaps we can learn from what they have to say.