By TOPPER STEINMAN
I am not alone in these thoughts. I was struck dumb by the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn., slayings on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 6- and 7-year-olds and six educators were slain by a madman. I sat numbed as I watched the multimedia reports, the manner of the killings, and the chilling effects.
I have worked as an educator with young people for over 40 years of my 65-year life. My beautiful wife and I have raised two wonderful children. We have two beautiful grandchildren, an 11-year-old and a 6-year-old. It was not a far stretch for us on Dec. 14 to go "but for the grace of our God goes us." How tragic a transference that would be.
I would not pretend to know the depth of hurt, sorrow, anger and loss for those in Newtown. I don't know how one goes on. From afar, I still remain struck by the day, the loss, and the sadness.
In light (or dark) of this horrific event, I now remain struck by Ann Curry.
Ms. Curry is a former NBC Today Show news anchor and, in my view, a wonderful news reporter. In her new role, she has put out a national challenge as a result of the Newtown tragedy: may each of us, in honor of the 26 lost lives, commit to 26 acts of kindness in 2013. Ann says "I'm in. Are you?"
Some of us don't need national challenges to move us to good deeds. We are naturally good each day and will remain that way. And some of us are naturally nasty each day and we will remain that way regardless of any national initiative to the contrary.
For many of us in between those two points, "26 ACTS" might be worth the thought.
I'm in. I am making no moves toward martyrdom, no heroic acts that cure cancer or world hunger, nothing that may change the planet-at-large in significant ways ... but, I'm in.
In 2013, I vow to: help a neighbor in distress; rid a local business of a violent video game; reconnect with some long-lost friends; change some of my own bad habits that compromise life for those around me; turn off technology and turn on human interaction; be kind to pets that stress; shovel a drive for someone I don't know; learn to swim with my son-in-law; reach out to an alienated young person; talk and listen and laugh with some elderly; hug an infant; stretch my understanding of something or someone I don't understand; openly confront a cause with which or a person with whom I disagree; continue to do some good things that I hope I do each day without some "26 ACTS" thing on my mind; say "no" when I'm too stretched; send a snail mail card instead of an email to a friend or a loved one; exercise and encourage those I love to do the same; pray; hope; and randomly make efforts to stay positive in spite of all the evening news insanity around us that seems to make lunacy look normal.
These are not New Year's resolutions. They are 26 ACTS (give or take a few) that I vow to commit this year to make life better for me and for those around me.
Basically, I believe people are good, life is worth living, and we can make a positive difference in the quality of life and in the people around us.
Newtown, for many of us, remains inexplicable. In its aftermath, we will continue to debate gun control and violent video games and mental health and political posturing and what "they" should do to deal with all of the above to produce whatever gains or losses that posturing allows. To those ends, many of us may feel powerless. To daily living, we are not. We can choose to make a constructive difference. I'm in. Are you?
Topper Steinman is an educational consultant in Champaign. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.