“You can make a difference in the world. What better day to start than today? I encourage you to always know your purpose, follow it, work hard at it, choose to have a positive perspective on how to view the world around you, choose to overcome your own hard times and choose hope within them. Life, in fact, is all about choice and the choice is yours alone to make. Choose hope.” Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis the first grade teacher from Sandy Hook elementary that hid her 15 first graders in the tiny bathroom within her classroom ends every speech, as she did Friday night in Tempe, Arizona with this powerful message.
In her recently published book entitled, ‘Choosing Hope,’ she gives us a glimpse of the tragedy she lived through when 20 children and 6 staff members were viciously gunned down on December 14, 2012. We all heard the facts continuously repeated in the media. Yet, when you put a name with a face and hear the events reiterated by the person who was literally a wall away it impacts your senses. She explains what it was like to hear the gunfire and people pleading for their lives as she attempted to keep her loving charges quiet and hidden from ‘the bad man.’ It simply stops you in your tracks and you reflect on the importance of living bravely, loving fully and seeing gratitude in absolutely everything in life.
As Kaitlin said, ‘you don’t move on but can choose to move forward’ with your life. That is a powerful thought that needs to roll around in our brains to be fully appreciated. We don’t move on from death or violence but we can move forward.
She confidently explained the steps she had taken to help heal. Therapy and the ongoing support from a loving father, mother and fiancé were all an integral part of her healing process. At first glance you might think she has been magically ‘fixed’ until an unusual sound in the room causes her eyes to flash as she seeks out like a laser beam the origin. Ahh yes, you think to yourself, you can recognize the sign of a fellow traveler whose life has been forever changed through a tragedy. We are just a bit more aware and cautious as we take in our surroundings. We are on alert as the deeply hidden wound in our psyche momentarily surfaces.
You can’t help but be amazed at her story. A feeling of hope cascades over you as you hear her talk about her ‘tomorrow’s.’ Here is a 31 year old woman who has been forever changed, marked if you will, through violence, fear and loss that most of us can’t even conceptualize yet she chooses to push us to focus on recognizing our own life purpose and live each day in a grateful, positive state of mind. Amazing.
You leave thinking about the immensity of her experience and naturally reflect on any issue that may have recently surfaced in your life that seemed to momentarily disrupt our flow. We feel humbled maybe even embarrassed at the comparison. Kaitlin’s journey can help us keep things in perspective and give us confidence to know that as human beings we are capable of incredible feats of bravery, understanding and healing when we keep our eyes forward on our tomorrow’s.
The next time we have a personal life challenge and become frightened that we may lose it, we will stop and remember … we really are capable of tremendous resiliency. We can make it though unbelievable life challenges when we choose to overcome rather than succumb.
May we live long enough to see less violence and more love in our world.
Have a great few days!