Believe in the power of good. | Keri Jeanne | Personal.

Like almost anyone you see right now, I cannot get my head around this tragedy in Connecticut. When I first heard about it, I thought there had to be some sort of misunderstanding, misreporting. There is no way something so horrific could happened. And then the reports were confirmed. 

It was still early in the investigation Friday afternoon.  I was paralyzed listening to reports on the radio in my car. I felt horrible thinking back to the morning when trying to do errands I was short tempered with my daughter, while these poor children were going through this living nightmare. These parents were losing their children. I was sick over it. I just couldn’t shake the feeling. I wanted to pick up my two kids and never let them go. I wanted to say I’m sorry for yelling at them. Or getting frustrated. Or being upset over things that really didn’t matter. It was like a slap in the face of what matters.

As I was finishing work and ending the day, I was at the grocery store. It was evident as this was unfolding it was on everyone’s mind. An interesting thing happened at that time.  I observed the return of kindness that has felt as if that has got lost in the shuffle in society. I observed patience that seems as if it has been buried under selfishness and instant gratification. I saw humility in people that had somehow gone away.  People were helping each other – making small talk – being gracious. It was amazing to me that in a time of such horror, there was a small glimmer of hope and grace.  Despite more details unfolding with more unthinkable realities – I noticed there is still good out there – perhaps we just need to find it again. 

I have had the news on for 5 minutes, I have read a few articles online, but the truth is, it hurts my heart too much to hear. I can honestly only take it in, a little at a time. Yet, I have a strange need to know more about it. A confusing space to be in.

There hasn’t been more than a few hours between shedding tears. I can’t stop thinking about those parents. Those siblings. Those teachers. Those staff members. Those children. All of them. Just like everyone else, my stomach is sick with the thought of what this small community must be feeling. I am miles away and it makes me sick.  I just can’t get my head around the reality. Perhaps its the feeling that in such a quaint small town, this too could happen here.  Everyone knows everyone, everyone thinks these things happen somewhere else. But this reminder struck my core – we are somewhere else. It could have been our town. Our children.

I didn’t intend this post to recap sadness and heartache. I opened this blog post today for me. Selfishly, I needed to write. I needed to clear my head and hope for a little while that this nightmare will remind us of what is most important. Maybe, just maybe, it will give me (and maybe you) some hope.

The hard truth is that 26 people didn’t come home last week. 20 of those people so young, they barely knew a fraction of this amazing world. I have heard so much about these lives cut short – but I challenge us to shift our thinking.  Let us celebrate what each of these spirits shared with us, with the world, even if it was far too short. Each one of these children gave their parents and families the gift of joy, memories and love. Each child shared their heart with their friends and loved ones, looking with open eyes and listening ears to learn about this world. I’d like to believe that each one of them have taken on a profound role in our history that will teach strangers about kindness, humility and compassion. Perhaps this terrible event can bring good. Perhaps it can show us there is more good than bad. That we can remember what its like to look out for our neighbors. To watch each others back and stand up for what is good. Perhaps these spirits will give us the strength to shift our society to a positive direction and embrace love, instead of pain and anger. I pray that embrace and lift up those who gave this world a legacy of happiness.

These beautiful smiles and joyful faces can forever be that. It is up to us to celebrate their blessings they have shared with the world.

Whenever we lose someone it is never easy being left without them. I believe we are the ones who suffer with the human part of missing someone, while they are welcomed to a place of peace. A place that we couldn’t possibly imagine here or else we’d all want to go! I know for me when I have lost someone incredible important to me I feel like the whole world should stop. Don’t people know what happened? Don’t people understand the void in this world now? But the reality is, life goes on, and we pick ourselves up and we move one foot in front of the other. They say time heals all wounds and while I don’t think we every really heal, time comforts us by lessening the pain. The burn never really goes away, but we adapt to living with it.

I cannot help but become stuck on every image of these 26 people. Every single one of them had a story. A family. A heart. Perhaps its because of my passion for my profession, but I cannot help but feel a huge responsibility for the families I get to work with.  I think about these families that are only left with all the images they have so far in their child’s life. That’s it. They don’t ever get to take anymore. I know as a Mom we always have the camera for our family. I know as a photographer I’m always making sure I have photos of everyone else. But please, let others take photos of you with your children. With your loved ones. With what matters in your life. I think we can all agree we push off photos because we want to do it when we get our hair done, or lose that weight, or fix that acne.  Maybe it isn’t a perfect photo. Maybe its out of focus or you’re not looking right at the camera. But remember, its real. This is your life. This is what matters. The fact is, we don’t get a say when we leave this Earth. We have no idea when we get to travel to our next journey. If we don’t stop the excuses, we are leaving nothing behind for those who matter to us. I have made a vow to be in more pictures – even if its just with my phone. I want something physical to hold, to look at, to see with my own eyes so I can remember what really matters in this world.

As I was walking out of a store the other day, I glanced down at the book ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.’  It nearly stopped me in my tracks.  That is the truth. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Does it matter if the kids have mismatched socks on? Probably not.  Does it matter if the kids colored on the table with washable marker? Not so much. Does it matter that they feel loved? More than anything else. Does it matter that they feel safe? Absolutely.

Let us hold our families (blood or not) a little tighter. Let us tell people who mean a lot to us that they matter. Let us believe in good. Let us have patience and grace. Let us look out for each other rather and step over each other to get ahead. It is up to us to teach our children kindness and compassion. Let’s lean in together to unite our families rather than divide us apart.

I came across a note I had written on my phone from almost a year ago.. It struck something so powerful in me. I plan to print this and put it up on the wall in our house.  Maybe you will too…

Be there.
Say yes – as often as possible.
If they are crabby, put them in water.
If they’re unloved, love them.
Laugh a lot.
Have family movie nights.
Let them pick out their own clothes.
Stop yelling.
Let them bang on pots and pans.
Play games.
Play dress up.
Read a book out loud with joy.
Bake a cake – and lick the bowl.
Surprise them.
Handle with care.
Be kind.

Hug those little ones extra tight. 

Much Love,
Keri Jeanne.

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