Monday, December 17, 2012

Tragedy, Faith, Teachers, Hugs + HOPE

photo of: "I am a rainbow in someone else's cloud." --Maya Angelou quote on child's painted rainbow (Blog article with TONS of back-to-school resources gathered in one spot.)
Rainbow of Hope

Yesterday here at Rainbow-Central I joined 'educator-bloggers' for a day of silence to honor all of those involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary school tragedy. Tomorrow I will join a different set of 'children-bloggers' in their own day of silence and tribute. I wrestle with what to say today. Sandwiched in between these bookends of silence, I feel compelled to bring words to the screen. 

I've been bouncing about fellow blogger's articles to read their thoughts and gain insight for myself. I'm still completely at a loss, but that does not excuse me to continual silence -- which would be so much easier than 'speaking.' In my surfing I just saw that Imagination Tree posted 5 suggestions NOT to say to a grieving family which she located at Huffington Post (click here). The following list compelled me to start typing. Top five indeed. 

1. "God just needed another angel."

2. "Thank goodness you have other children," or, "You're young. You can have more kids."

3. He/she was just on loan to you from God.

4. God doesn't give you more than you can handle.

5. We may not understand it, but this was God's will.

photo of: Quotation on faith through challenges with rainbow art (via RainbowsWithinReach)
Greater Faith Required in the Face of GREAT Challenges

I don't typically think of my blog and my writings here as a pulpit for my faith interpretations and understandings. I consider myself more of an 'actions-speak-louder-than-words' person of faith. With no disrespect to my father who is now retired from a lifetime of service as an ordained minister and one who has been able to uniquely combine articulation in words with actions how to live a life of faith... this poem from Edgar Guest speaks to me.
I'd rather see a sermon
than hear one any day;
I'd rather one should walk with me
than merely tell the way.
The eye's a better pupil
and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing,
but example's always clear;
And the best of all preachers
are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action
is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it
if you'll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action,
but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver
may be very wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lessons
by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you
and the high advice you give,
But there's no misunderstanding
how you act and how you live.

That is a rather long preamble to say that I am going to depart from my typical approach to my blog articles and go a little 'deeper' today. Extra-ordinary times require such archaeological depth digging and a more profound measure of reflection. In any case, I am willing to attempt to peel another layer of the onion in the midst of my own wrestling with my faith. If my articulation here is helpful to one additional person, then it will have been worth the effort. 

I have come to absolutely believe Maya Angelou in her opening quote up above. I have come to realize that I am, ~~me personally~~ indeed capable of reflecting the sunshine in the midst of another's clouds and storms, creating a rainbow together. No matter the training nor preparation -- empathy, willingness and courage are all that are required to shine light in the midst of ongoing storm. With that understanding and respect comes responsibility, too. My own life has had its share of 'train wrecks' and yet here I am, still capable of attempting to articulate surviving.... and perhaps more importantly? Thriving, in the face of adversity and challenge.

photo of: Rainbow Quotation, Living a Life in the Face of Tragedy by RainbowsWithinReach

Let's be completely clear. I have never, ever faced anything remotely on the scale facing the families in Newtown, Connecticut. NOTHING. Nothing prepares loving parents for writing their first grader's obituary while in the midst of wrapping Christmas presents. NOTHING. But surviving the unexpected, the blind-siding? I have a little track-record there with an ongoing conversation to the heavens on overcoming life's inequities and harsh, compelling, pulverizing agonies. 

My ramble today was specifically prompted by #4 in the list above of things NOT to say. "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." This slick and glib sentiment is one that personally irks me to no end. I know that people want to say 'something' helpful in times of crisis only to open their mouth and have a 'stitch in time' Mother Goose level of platitude fall from their tongue. Without a doubt, the tried and true silence with a genuine hug would be an improvement over expressing sentiment of this nature. What sort of God are they envisioning? What faith are they describing? This certainly makes my all time, top 5 list of nonsense never-ever to be repeated. To grieving parents nor to anyone with ears. 

photo of: Rainbow Painting in the Face of Tragedy Quote via RainbowsWithinReach

Let me go on public record, that I personally do not believe in a pinball, happily-ever-after deity who sizes up my capability in crisis, only to extend the tragedy just slightly less horrific than what I am prepared to handle. I have first hand knowledge of being above my pay-grade when it comes to life-altering setbacks. Rather than thinking that God has chosen me for this crushing blow or trusts me with that particular #*^!, I believe that I will overcome life's debilitating developments because I am a believer. I am a believer in rainbows. I trust that God will see me through the unthinkable and that the prism of my belief will yield color beyond my wildest imagination in the hands of a loving God. 
photo of: Bulletin Board from Toddlers: "My God is So BIG!" Torn paintings create Mural
Camp Song: "My God is So BIG" as Bulletin Board

My personal, summary, go-to Bible verse is Romans 8:28. 

"We know that for those who love Him, for those called in agreement with his purpose, God makes all things work together for good." 

This is the way that I have it memorized. Every Bible translation has a slight variation on this theme, but in my simpleton faith, atrocity happens on Planet Earth. It is my faith coupled with God's redeeming power to build both the Grand Canyon and fashion butterfly wings that makes the unthinkable in my life "work together for good." I might underline the ALL things component of the equation: divorce, cancer, cancer-the-sequel, chronic illness: ALL THINGS. I personally do not believe in a puppeteer pulling strings, to see if indeed I can 'handle' disaster. Instead I believe in a redeeming creator capable of sculpting glory out of abject, dismal and tragic circumstances. A glorious, triumphant framer-of-the-Universe interested in the specifics of the number of hairs on my aching head type creator is how I envision in my times of desperation and soul searching. Compassionate as the best amalgamation of perfect parents, is the summary I reach as a new day dawns.

photo of: "Remember that children and gardens reflect the care they are given."  (Graphic garden via RainbowsWithinReach)
Treasure the Children in Your Life, Tend to them with Care

How on earth can the atrocity against a score of innocent children 'work together for good'? Valid question. The answer to which remains to be seen. The answer is up to each of us to wrestle with and contribute pieces of the puzzle. What will an entire globe of good and creative people do in the face of such sorrow? Heaven only knows. Literally. Only heaven knows. As we see here, I have been prompted to be more forth-coming in my faith. Publicly. That's a difference. That's me doing things differently as a result of last Friday. That's me being compelled to go beyond sharing 'pin-able' photos of bulletin boards and holiday crafts -- to me sharing from my heart on this, my wee little platform. It's a departure from business as usual. 
photo of: "The Whole Purpose of Education is to Turn Mirrors into Windows"  quotation in caligraphy
The Purpose of Education

These hours of reflection have made me promise to myself to use whatever beacon of opportunity available to me to shine light and love forward, without qualification, without reserve, but instead with renewed dedication and enthusiasm. I'm going about my day differently today. How about you? Have you hugged your loved ones with greater intensity? Have you looked your coworkers in the eye and expressed your appreciation? Have you written your child's teacher a letter of gratitude? These are opportunities that go beyond gestures and cut to the heart. Additions to the plus side of the ledger. 

photo of: beach sand and "Teaching is the one profession that permits love." Quote on education

I have the great good fortune of interacting with scads of teachers around the country. I know in my heart that I have always wanted to offer my appreciation for their dedication and service. To celebrate together. Offer an oasis of joy in the midst of tough times. Learning of the heroism of these educators at Sandy Hook, I am determined to continue with additional zeal and a renewed sense of purpose not only in my admiration, but also in my articulation of that admiration. Now I will redouble my efforts. This zeal will probably 'translate' into more profound 'hugging' of educators during my coming travels. It will be revealed in a new level of commitment to my capability of uplifting others. This reflection will congeal into taking action when I'm overwhelmed or exhausted.... because we are at a precipice of needing people-of-action to stand up. Together. Joining hands. Reaching out. Speaking up. 

I grew up at church camp singing around the glowing embers of campfires, such classics as "Kum Ba Yah" with strumming guitars punctuating the shining stars overhead. It's time for me to make that bedrock of experience more of a visible foundation here. 
photo of: "Cherish Today": child's sunshine collage
Cherish Each and Every Day
 My plan is to use my empathy and my wordsmithing to contribute to the best of my ability. My plan is to be more forthcoming in how I quilt my faith into my day-to-day progress through adversity. My plan is to hug more educators -- in word and in actuality. My plan is to return to a cherry, frothy combination of Gingerbread artwork for Wednesday. My plan is to do everything in my power to make my life and its ripples a rainbow of hope. 

-- Debbie -- 

I have now linked up with LittleMissGlamourGoestoKindergarten.
Bloggers who have stores at TeachersPayTeachers are donating a portion of all their sales over the coming month -- to be given to the SandyHook school community. Learn more here.  

Here's a RoundUP article I gathered earlier on building kindness and emotional intelligence, if you are searching for 'something-to-do' with all of your emotions. This article has some tangible ideas to put to work. 

photo of: Kindness Inspiration, Filling Buckets + Emotional Intelligence RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach
Kindness + Bucket Filling + Emotional Intelligence

Late breaking Editor's Note: Seriously. I don't even 'remember' writing this article months ago. It just before midnight EST turned up on my Pinterest analytics. Seriously. It's about the power of a mother's handwritten letter to a weary teacher.
If you've ever wondered how you as a parent can support the teacher of your child, you owe it to yourself to go read this one.

photo of: Classroom Decor and More: Letters from Home (LinkUP via RainbowsWIthinReach)

I have an earlier article written here over the weekend, of the amazing hope and resilience that has grown in Littleton, CO, in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy through the organization "Rachel's Challenge." 

Here's an article I wrote years back around the honoring of a Blue Christmas during a church service, for when the holidays are not unfolding with the glee of a Halmark movie. Attending this service I attempt to describe is one of the most moving and healing religious experiences of my adult life. 

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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