I did not know anyone who died at Sandy Hook. I didn’t know their friends or families, either. But I am a mother, and I remember what it was like having a first grader. Those gap toothed smiles. The sweet little hugs. The nervousness I felt sending them off to school in the big yellow bus. When those children were murdered on that cold December day, it shook something deep inside of me. And when I read about the heroism of the teachers who died, it made me want to do something myself.
I decided to do twenty six small things before December 14, 2013, each a tiny dedication to those who died. I started out making meals for friends who were sick or had suffered a loss, but that was something I always did, and it wasn’t really a sacrifice at all on my part. Also, when I did these things, people thanked me for them and it brought me personal attention. I didn’t want that. I wanted to do something for someone I didn’t know.
I began donating to charities, but even that was too easy. I just clicked on PayPal or sent a check. It didn’t hurt. It wasn't really a sacrifice, and it wasn't personal. I'd always donated to charities, especially children's charities, and will continue to do so, but I wanted to find something I could do that meant a bit more.
I finally decided to donate my hair to be made into a wig for cancer patients. I had long hair already, and I knew a friend was having a fundraiser at her shop in October. I made this decision sometime in January, and it gave me months to grow out my hair.
What I didn’t expect was as my hair grew longer, I sort of grew attached to it. I loved the way it brushed against my back. I enjoyed winding it up in a bun or braiding it. It was thick and long and I’d never dyed it. It was the perfect hair for a wig, but as October approached, I grew more and more nervous about losing it. I’d become sort of vain about it. My friends told me how much they liked it, and insisted I keep it long. Strangers complimented me on it. Even though it had become a pain to take care of, I still wasn’t sure if I was ready to part with it.
I let people know I was growing it out and why in the hopes that it might make them consider donating their own hair, but also to keep me accountable. I was secretly afraid I might not go through with it, and I was so close to reaching my twenty six random acts. Every time I saw a photo of one of the Sandy Hook victims, or of their grieving parents, it reminded me about what is really important.
Getting my hair cut, it turns out, was really no big deal. A few snips of the stylist’s scissors, and it was gone. I immediately loved the way it felt so much lighter, and brushed against my cheeks as I turned my head back and forth to look at it in the salon mirror. I couldn’t understand why I’d been so nervous in the first place. It was only hair, and it will grow.
Today I saw a quote on a page on Facebook dedicated to one of the children who died at Sandy Hook, Daniel Barden (https://www.facebook.com/WhatWouldDanielDo). “Today I will change my way of thinking from, ‘I have to do this, I have to do that,’ to ‘I GET to do this, I GET to do that.’ Even life’s little changes and mundane tasks hold beauty, meaning, and offer opportunity. We learn this from Daniel.”
I still have a few acts left to perform, and this quote reminded me why it is so important. Each little thing we do, whether it is making a meal or helping someone in need or even donating our hair, may seem very insignificant in the scheme of things, but it can also mean a great deal to the one person it helped. And aren’t we lucky indeed that we GET to do them?
If you are interested in learning more about Sandy Hook and the Sandy Hook Promise, here is their website: http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/