The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy left most of this country permanently changed. The possibility of our worst nightmare came to life on a Friday morning, and most us have no idea how to make things right. We can’t, of course. 26 lives were lost. But we can find positive ways to honor their lives and move forward.
Many of us have taken on Ann Curry’s mission to offer #26Acts if Kindness. I adore this idea. It’s positive. It’s good. But for some reason, it also doesn’t seem enough.
So here’s my small attempt. I am writing down 26 lessons I want my children to learn in their lifetimes. Sure, maybe these are things I would have tried to teach them anyway. But, if they look back one day, I want them to know why these lessons meant something. And I want to remind myself why I am a parent and why it is so important to raise good, kind people. So, here we go:
1. Do your best everyday as a way to honor your community and your family, not your ego.
2. Share what you have, because you always have more than someone else. And what you have never makes you better than anyone else.
3. Enjoy and celebrate those around you TODAY. Tomorrows are hopeful but today is real and here and a gift.
4. Don’t be late. When you are, you are telling the other person that your time is worth more than theirs.
5. Ask questions. Knowledge is always more valuable than the perception of knowing.
6. Use your words. We don’t live in a world of mind-readers. Ask for what you want, say what you think.
7. Did everyone make a mess? Don’t just fix your part, help be the solution to the entire problem.
8. “The world owes us nothing, we owe each other the world.” You may earn things in your life, but never act entitled to any of it. Be grateful for what you get, and consider how to give back.
9. Love your brother. No, I mean it. Your sibling (or cousin or family member) is a part of your identity and heritage. Honor it, value it, never ever let it go. No disagreement is ever worth it. I promise.
10. Be patient. There will always be traffic, and people in front of you, and people doing things slower than you can do it, and things that don’t go your way. Breathe. Check yourself and just be patient.
11. Stuff doesn’t matter. Cool toys, fancy clothes, cars, houses, things that make you look like a rock-star… they can be fun. Enjoy it if you can. But, really? Don’t give it unnecessary value and none of it should ever define who you are.
12. Take care of your body. Go to the doctor, eat well, exercise, don’t ignore something that worries you. You have one body and one life, do your best to honor it and take care of it.
13. Love what you do. Really try to find a purpose that you leap out of bed for everyday. Your happiness is important and you will be able to give more when you are happy.
14. Be uncomfortable. Every time you are uncomfortable, you will learn something. You might even gain something. You might even learn to like it. Discomfort is OK, it’s good for you, it’s a challenge — don’t back away from it.
15. Keep learning. The minute you think you have it all figured out, you have closed yourself off from some very important lessons.
16. Don’t let someone else fix your problems. Not me, not your spouse, no one. Face the music, own up to your mistakes, take responsibility.
17. Earn your keep. Do your job to the best of your ability. Do your part. Be an active, hard-working participant in whatever you do.
18. Take initiative. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Don’t assume it’s someone else’s job to fix it. Don’t decide someone else has thought it up already. Want something to change? Jump in and make it happen.
19. Listen. I mean it. Listen to what the people around you are saying. Your opinions are no more important than theirs. Listen and consider and learn.
20. I may say you’re “the most amazing person that ever lived” but you still need to prove that to the world. Humility is a critical part of growth.
21. Stubborn? Get over it. 98% of the time it’s just not worth it. I promise.
22. Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to be confident to get confident. Be what you want to be, no one else is going to give it to you.
23. Change is coming. No matter what you do to prevent it, things change. Either embrace and move with the change or shut down and lose the lesson that change brings.
24. Be loyal to the people you care about and respect, even when things change unexpectedly (see #23) or make you uncomfortable (see #14).
25. See the value in every experience, whether it’s positive or negative. Failure is OK. Appreciate the value in every bad date, job interview, basketball practice. Consider, learn, move forward.
26. Love is never a weakness. Love like it’s your job. Love like you have nothing else in the world. Tell those you love about how you feel often. Don’t assume they just know.
The 26 lives lost on December 14th were extraordinarily significant, and I will try to teach these lessons to my children in their honor.