Staying positive in the face of negativity and horror

Kindness keeps an open heartI am, by nature, a positive person. For my own sanity, and for the sake of maximizing my potential contribution to the world, I try to look for the good in all things. That said, I am also extremely sensitive to violence and cruelty, and seem to be getting more so as I get older.

My intention, from the start of this Web site more than 15 years ago, was to make it a source and repository for information that would be helpful and uplifting. In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I have little to add to the pain and outrage you’ve no doubt seen and heard elsewhere. Instead, I’d like to focus on quotes and resources that might bring comfort or help process the range of feelings we all seem to be dealing with right now.

I saw a typically kind-hearted quote by Mr. Fred Rogers on Facebook yesterday: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers– so many caring people in this world.”

Another came from The PowerPath School of Shamanism: “Yesterday’s massacre in a Connecticut school has left us once again holding another large scale trauma in our collective. Incidents such as this one have been part of a larger pattern of aggressive, predatory, and violent behavior which has been prevalent in our global society as a pattern for a very very long time. It is truly time to change the pattern whatever it takes. So in the next 24 hours if you can please light a candle for a time of prayer for the victims, and in the spirit of December’s theme of forgiveness, forgive the pattern that has dominated the way of the collective up to this point, and that has driven us to operating out of fear instead of love.”

But of all the posts I’ve seen, perhaps the one that touched me most deeply was the one about Sandy Hook teacher Vicki Soto who, according to the report I read, “hid her first graders in the cabinets and closets after hearing the gunfire. When the shooter came to her classroom, she told him that her students were in the gym. He then gunned her down and moved on. She saved the lives of all of her students… She deserves to be remembered for her bravery.”*

My response: “As these stories continue to unfold, this one touched a special place deep in my heart. I feel this on so many levels— as a 40-year educator, as a citizen of this planet. No one goes into education expecting to ever have to deal with this kind of horror. Please remember this young woman the next time you hear some [person] talk about how easy teachers have it. My heart goes out to her family, her students, and the community.” I also noted that I had just received an email from Ken Bauer, my co-teaching partner from 1973-74. We taught in one of the toughest schools in the city, where we saw evidence of violence in school and in the community fairly often. Even in that context, we would never, ever have imagined the possibility of something like this happening.

So yes, I have lit a candle, and have cried a river over this one. What I’m asking of all my friends, colleagues, and site visitors is only this: Share an extra bit of kindness and love today. And take a minute to be grateful for any and all good in your life, especially the people you value.

From my heart to yours,


PS. If you have found any resource with tips on how to talk with children or how to help others process this information (especially kids), please contact me. A number of friends have shared or posted the following resources since I first posted this message. I will continue to add to the list in the related links below and in coming links pages.

*This post was written less than 24 hours after the shooting. As new information continues to be released, I believe that not all of Ms. Soto’s students survived, and that all of the adults murdered in this horrific attack made similar efforts to protect others in the school. I have also seen the Fred Rogers quote repeated dozens of times, but have decided to leave the original post intact to preserve the spirit, emotion, and intention with which it was composed. Thank you for understanding.

Related links:

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting on Friday, December 14, 2012, I posted the above blog on my home page and asked for resources to help people who were searching for guidance and strategies, especially when it came to talking with kids and helping young people process the news and reactions, as well as the actual event itself. I also wanted materials to support adults— parents, educators, counselors, and other support providers— who needed to be available to others (kids and adults) while they, themselves, were processing the impact of this event. I received the following responses:

Dr. Tim Jordan wrote in his blog about the importance of grieving and how to balance talks with kids about their feelings about death and violence with the importance of living life to the fullest, feeling gratitude, and connecting with the people in our lives. “What is unexpressed becomes unmanageable,” he writes. Click here to read more. (Thanks to Tammy Cox for posting this link.)

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller have some very immediate, practical, and positive suggestions about what to say to young kids and how to reassure them of their safety. Click here for more.

Doug Jackson also sent me a link to the Disaster Distress helpline sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-985-5990. Practical information about warning signs, dealing with disasters, getting help, coping tips, and resources for educators. Also information in Spanish. Click here for more information.

For another perspective, here’s a powerful piece by the mother of a mentally ill 13-year-old talking about her options in getting help for her son. Click here to read more. (Thank you to Don Tillman, Rhea Alper, and numerous others for this link.)

Margit Crane, from wrote, “Autism Spectrum Disorder does not [cause] a person to hurt little children. Period.” She also posted a link to a statement from the Autism Research Institute. Click here to read.

Here’s another article on the topic: “Autism/Aspergers had Nothing to Do with It,” by Lisa Ann Setchel. Click here to read.

And from Dorothy Elchoness, a link to “26 Moments that Restored our Faith in Reality This Year.” Click here to view.

More ways to help

More friends to the rescue! J. Victor McGuire posted, “If anyone wants to mail sympathy cards or letters of support to the CT school, the school address is: Sandy Hook Elementary School, 12 Dickenson Drive, Sandy Hook, CT 06482. Please copy/paste/share. Sending a card is a small gesture, but at least it’s something.”

Likewise, Naomi Drew sent the following links for people who want to reach out and help. I have not vetted these resources, but I trust Naomi, and have added these resources at her request.

Danbury Hospital 

Danbury hospital has partnered with other local counseling and mental health agencies within the community and is providing crisis intervention services 24 hours a day, seven days a weekFind out how you can contribute here.

Friends of the Engel Family Fund

Olivia Engel, 6, was shot and killed during the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. To help the family of the little girl who longtime family friend, Dan Merton, said “had perfect manners” and was the “teacher’s pet, the line leader,” supporters have set up the Friends of the Engel Family Fund. Find out how you can donate here.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fund

A former Sandy Hook student has set up the Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fund in conjunction with Crowdrise, to raise funds for the victims, families and others affected by the tragic shooting. Donations will be directed to the Sandy Hook PTSA, according to the fundraising site. Find out how you can get involved here.

Newtown Memorial Fund

The Newtown Memorial Fund aims to help victims’ families pay for funeral costs, set up a community-wide memorial and a college scholarship fund for the students of the Newtown Public Schools. Find out how you can get involved here. 

Emilie Parker Memorial Fund

Emilie Parker, 6, was one of 26 victims killed on Friday in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. To support Emilie’s parents, Robbie and Alissa, in paying for medical expenses, arranging for a funeral in Utah and taking off from work to spend time with family, friends and relatives have set up the Emilie Parker Memorial FundTo donate via PayPal, use the email

Project Linus

Project Linus, a nonprofit that brings comfort to children in crisis, has arranged to send more than 700 warm, cozy handmade blankets to children affected by  this latest shooting, according to an email sent to The Huffington Post. Find out how you can get involved here.

The American Red Cross

The American Red Cross of Connecticut provided more than 50 units of blood platelets and plasma to the Danbury Hospital, where some of the victims were transported, spokesperson Melanie Pipkin told the Huffington Post. The aid organization has also distributed food and water to first responders and is setting up a family reception center that will provide initial grief counseling.

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