I went to the beach this morning. I went to the beach and stretched my legs and watched the wild ocean crash upon the shore. I felt the air on my skin, I listened to the waves and the rumblings, I watched my puppies chase birds they never could catch.
And now I’m struggling with what to write here. So I’ll just come out with it.
Every December 14th I make an anonymous donation to a 1st grade classroom somewhere in the country as a way of honoring the children who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook in 2012. I find the classroom on donorschoose.org and I try to complete a teacher’s project if I can. I do it without attaching my name to it, and I’ve only talked about it once, really, on Facebook a couple of years ago because I was hoping others would help provide funding for a specific project that was running out of time. (They did; we met the goal.)
When I do this, I think about the kids who died. Those 1st graders should be 8th graders now, starting to emerge from the haze of trying to be just like everyone else that is so often the hallmark of middle school. They would be testing their parents’ patience and also astounding them with their wisdom, their beauty. Some might have had first kisses; some might have had other firsts. Some of them would be friends with each other; others might have moved away. They should be figuring out what they love. They should be figuring out who they are.
In their absence are holes that can’t be filled. In their absence is trauma for their classmates, for their families, for the kids everywhere else who have learned that school is not safe. None of this is good enough. And a donation to a classroom in their memory is not good enough either, but it’s something; it’s something I can do to create a different kind of energy in the world.
I ran on the beach this morning and felt the muscles in my legs. I crouched down on the beach this morning and felt the wind in my hair. I stood on the beach this morning and felt so gratefully, inexplicably, alive. There is no reason why I deserve to be here; I hope I can always remember that it’s a gift, every second, every breath, every day.