A Way to Honor the Precious Lives Lost

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways — either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” That inspiring thought comes from the Dalai Lama and it is certainly applicable in the wake of the unfathomable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Last Friday, as the nation came together to reflect in a moment of silence and ring church bells 26 times to honor the lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School,  the “26 Acts of Kindness” campaign was gaining steam. The idea’s as simple as it is cathartic — commit to performing one act of generosity for each of the victims lost at Sandy Hook, and share the results.

NBC journalist Ann Curry, who tweeted about her 20 acts of kindness in honor of the child victims, is leading the charge.  “Right now, this country wants to heal,” she wrote in a blog post. “I think the only thing comforting in the face of a tragedy like this is to do something good with it if you can. Be a part of that wave.”

The idea, which invites everyone to carry out acts of kindness has evolved into a viral effort known as 26 Acts of Kindness on Facebook and #26Acts and #20Acts on Twitter.

The Facebook page was started on the day of the tragedy Warren Tidwell, a 34-year-old auto parts salesman. He posted a photo of his first act, giving a box of chocolates to a woman at his local supermarket in Auburn, Alabama. His note read, “To honor the 26 taken from us at Sandy Hook we are doing 26 acts of kindness. You are #1.”  Later, he and his four-year old son donated toys to the local firemen’s Toys for Tots drive.

“I felt empowered, instead of the helplessness, hurt, and fear,” Tidwell said in an interview with NBC. “I can put the good back in the world that was taken from it.”

Students nationwide, struggling to understand the tragedy and to feel safe in their own schools, spent the days before their holiday vacation trying to do just that. They gathered Christmas gifts for underprivileged kids, collected canned goods for local food banks, acknowledged their own teachers, and created artwork to send to the new Sandy Hook School. All of these efforts are helping our nation to hold on to hope and to heal.

As Ann Curry asks at #26 Acts on Twitter, “An act of kindness, big or small. Are you in?

It’s Christmas time.  Give charity, spread some smiles and bring cheer to hearts!

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