December 14, 2012, changed that for me.
By Dec. 14 of each year, we have finished off the leftover turkey and we are in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. People are stressed, whether it's from trying to finish their shopping or closing out the year at the office.
But, you know, people just seem to smile a little more this time of year.
Unfortunately, December 14, 2012, was different. Particularly for the families of these innocent individuals:
Charlotte Bacon (02/22/06, female); Daniel Barden (09/25/05, male); Rachel Davino (07/17/83, female), Olivia Engel (07/18/06, female); Josephine Gay (12/11/05, female); Ana Marquez-Greene (04/04/06, female); Dylan Hockley (3/8/06, male); Dawn Hochsprung (06/28/65, female); Catherine Hubbard, (06/08/06, female); Chase Kowalski (10/31/05, male); Jesse Lewis (6/30/06, male); James Mattioli (3/22/06, male); Grace McDonnell (12/04/05, female); Anne Marie Murphy (07/25/60, female); Emilie Parker (5/12/06, female); Jack Pinto (5/06/06, male); Noah Pozner (11/20/06, male); Caroline Previdi (9/07/06, female); Jessica Rekos (5/10/06, female); Avielle Richman (10/17/06, female); Lauren Rousseau (06/08/82, female); Mary Sherlach (02/11/56, female); Victoria Soto (11/04/85, female); Benjamin Wheeler (09/12/06, male); Allison Wyatt (07/03/06, female).
Every time I look at this list, my eyes well up and it is all I can do to hold the tears back. I think about our four children, and I don't know how I could cope. I think about the strength in Emilie Parker's father as he made his statement shortly after the tragedy and I can't imagine being that strong.
The tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a stark reminder of how fragile life is and how quickly it can end.
Unfortunately, we have way too many of these reminders these days. Whether it's a theater in Colorado, a university in Virginia, an elementary school in Connecticut or a drive-by shooting in Jacksonville, the frequency and magnitude of these tragedies appear to be escalating. And they are so senseless.
So, what do we do about it? It is a question we all need to work on answering because we can't let the trends continue.
In the meantime, I am trying to do a better job of realizing all of the things that I have to be thankful for and how blessed I am.
I have a long way to go, but I'm working on it.
I started by doing what I know a lot of parents did with their children the past few weeks.
• I hugged them a little tighter, and a little longer. They gave it right back to me.
• I stayed off the phone and the laptop a little more when I was home. My foosball, horseshoes, cornhole and basketball skills dramatically improved as a result.
• Our 6-year old and 3-year-old can wear us out with questions. I tried to give more thoughtful answers rather than the one- or two-word answers designed to satisfy their curiosity. The more thoughtful answers produced more questions. I didn't mind.
• When I went into their rooms to kiss them good night before going to bed, I crawled into bed with them a few times and just held them while they slept. It's amazing how peaceful that is.
They are all simple actions that make such a big difference — not only for them, but for me. The Sandy Hook tragedy made me realize that.
The Sandy Hook tragedy also reminded me of how important the work of The Jacksonville Bar Association and its members is.
I am convinced our community is safer and is generally better off because of that work. We don't have measurable results from most of the projects that we take on or the community services we provide, but I believe in my heart of hearts that we make a huge difference in our community by creating awareness about mental health issues, providing forums to discuss human trafficking, helping teach civics to seventh graders, giving out gifts to children in foster care programs and generally providing thousands and thousands of pro bono and community service hours every year.
Thank you all for everything you do.
I just watched the video of Robbie Parker's statement again, and I continue to be amazed at how he took what is every parent's worst nightmare, and somehow turned it into a message of thankfulness and forgiveness.
He reached out to the family of Adam Lanza (04/22/1992, male) and offered love and support. He was thankful for the six years he served as Emilie's father. He challenged us not to turn the tragedy into "something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people."
The amount of courage and selflessness that took is astounding to me. I hope many of us learn from it. I hope I learn from it.
The Bar is open! Come make a difference.
I decided weeks ago that I would write this column with a focus on Thanksgiving and the year-end holiday season. In other words, rattling off all of the things that we have to be thankful for and reminding ourselves (me in particular) of how blessed I am. But, as I sit here typing, I can't help but change the tone of the column from what I originally intended.