Tragedy Inspires Acts of Kindness

Hold a door open for someone. If someone holds it open for you, say  “Thank you.”

In the wake of national tragedy, it’s almost expected in America that citizens will join together and start paying it forward. Such an act can be as simple as holding a door or saying two words.

It’s unfortunate that this phenomenon has to follow a tragedy. But tragedies remind us of how fortunate we are to live as we do.

The latest uptick of kindness to others comes out of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Twenty first-graders and six adults lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a senseless act – an act that no amount of analysis or scrutiny will lead to understanding such a loss.

Out of this tragedy and during the holiday season, many Americans chose to take part in 26 Random Acts of Kindness – one act for each of the Sandy Hook victims.

I spoke to a family in Greene County on Christmas Day who did just this. Amandalyn Schrader and her mother, Barbara, said they always pay it forward around the holidays, trying to help someone in need. This year, they wanted to help 26 people.

Barbara Schrader went around town, giving out gift cards to strangers in the mall, paying for take-out orders for strangers in the drive-thru. But as she told me on Christmas Day – it doesn’t take money to be kind. It takes an attitude.

An attitude I embraced driving from Charlottesville to suburban Philadelphia two days later, allowing cars to merge in front of me instead of choosing to be an aggressive driver (which is known to happen occasionally). That’s all it takes. At times through the trip when I needed to merge, I felt thankful to the drive behind me who slowed down to let me in. So I know the sacrifice of a few miles per hour translates into a personal satisfaction for myself and a little victory for the other driver.

In a Facebook post following the Sandy Hook tragedy, Philadelphia news anchor Jim Gardner posted an appropriate reflection, writing in part:

But the children, oh the children. I think of the families that must eventually come to grips with the fact that there are birthday parties not to be had, soccer games not to be played, graduations not to be attended, marriage toasts not to be made, and grandchildren not to be held. It’s a nightmare with no end. As a country, I somehow feel it’s our obligation to do something more than just feel badly for the families that have experienced unbearable loss. I just don’t know where to start, but we better start thinking about it.

Gun-gontrol debates and mental-health discussions may not yield tangible results.

Twenty-six random acts of kindness can’t prevent another tragedy. But these acts, especially in honor of the innocent victims, can make us heal as a society and show deserved respect toward other people.

If nothing else, we owe that to the victims.

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