Today, on a chilly December morning in the midst of a season of lights, joy, and anticipation, we paused as a nation to commemorate a tragic and incomprehensible loss of innocent life.
I was struck by the dissonance of the moment: Quiet reflection punctuated by tolling bells; holiday preparations interrupted by somber prayer. This is not the season, this is not the time to be marking the loss of 20 beautiful boys and girls and the six adults who cared for them.
There is never a time for this.
So I come away more than a little confused, conflicted and even a little guilty. I anticipate the holidays with my family but know that Newtown parents now dread this season. I imagine for them that the lights of Hanukkah and Christmas will forever be dimmed.
Despite the tragedy, we will send students off for vacation and holidays with their families. It is that time of year and the calendar says so. We will rest, enjoy family time, catch a movie, and share some laughs with a friend. Our teachers and principals, who throughout the year—and most certainly in the last several days—have acted with compassion, courage, and commitment to their students and families, will take a break, read a book, play with their own children, maybe even sleep in a little late to recharge their batteries. All of it well deserved and natural.
Yet as parents, educators, young people, and as a nation we are experiencing an awkward and disconcerting moment in our lives: We mourn, and we celebrate. We worry, yet we hope. We remember, but we move on.
The English writer G.K. Chesterton called hope “unreasonable and indispensable.” Hope is bright, stubborn, unyielding—hope never gives up, and we are nothing without it. We find ourselves in such a season of hope.
It is a childlike, youthful hope. The kind of hope that glimmers in our students’ eyes and shines in their curiosity, creativity, and resilience. This youthful hope allows even the most cynical and tired among us to endure difficult times, to persist, and to move forward even when the evidence suggests otherwise. The bubbling energy and courage of young people reminds us why we do this work, why we care so deeply.
This youthful, unreasonable, and indispensable hope inspires us to carry on and, working together, build a better, more just, and loving world.
I wish you and your families a joyful season of hope.