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Shifting Gears / Reminders of the of power of 'ordinary' lives

Published 11:30 am, Tuesday, December 17, 2013
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This is the season that is supposed to remind us of love. To remind us that we are more than we seem and can be more than we have been. It is a season, in the middle of great darkness, that tells us there is light. The lights of the menorah; the lights of the tree. In fact, this season tells us that we can be light.

Two events this month illustrate just how miraculously human beings can become light in the midst of almost unbearable darkness. One event was the death, which reminded us of the life, of Nelson Mandela. The other event was the one-year anniversary of Sandy Hook.

The miracle of Sandy Hook began with remarkable people. Everyday people, like you and me, balancing children, work, homes, friends, parents, and whatever invisible personal struggles are tucked away in each of us. And it was the busiest time of the year, too, with the shortest of days and the longest of lists. Then, time stood still. Hearts were broken, unbelievably. I would have thought unbearably broken.

Yet, out of that shattering of lives, Sandy Hook decided to choose love. And it made a Promise -- the Sandy Hook Promise. That promise is all about love. It is inclusive, respectful of what would appear a chasm of difference, focused on what brings us together -- children -- rather than what divides us -- guns. Its focus is on the needs of children who might become shooters of guns, their need for love and how that love needs to exist in concrete ways.

To visit the Sandy Hook website (www2.sandyhookpromise.org) is to recognize the potential of a small community of good and resilient people seeing beyond their own grief to create something that could heal a larger, national wound.

Something similar can be said about the life of Nelson Mandela. Seeing beyond his own grief and even the huge grief and injustice of his fellow black South Africans, he provided a path for reconciliation. It was a path, based on inclusion and love, that could, also, heal a huge, national wound.

Nelson Mandela did not start out as a large person. His childhood was lived in a remote South African village that, still, has only one paved road. He responded to events in one way instead of another. He became large because of the choices he made and his commitment them. Sandy Hook parents, too, just ordinary people. And they, too, have chosen to respond in one way instead of another.

The way that was chosen was inclusion over division and love over hate. And, there is something else. Both saw the largeness of the picture of which they were a part. I think human beings are the only species on earth who can live lives larger than our own. It's because we are able to see a bigger picture. And, it's because we can choose. Sometimes, it's a hard choice to make. Except, deep down, I think, it's a choice we all want to make.

I, for one, am humbled and inspired by the Sandy Hook parents and grateful that they chose to let their lives become so large.

Carol Swenson is a counseling psychologist with a practice in Westport. Her "Shifting Gears" appears monthly, and she may be reached at: shiftinggears.swenson@gmail.com.