Sandy Hook School Shooting MournerLast night, all of us at Jennings, our agency in Chapel Hill, served a meal to the families at SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals. We’d solicited favorite holiday recipes from our clients, vendors and friends over the past few weeks and everyone at the agency had chosen one to cook and bring. It wasn’t a world-changing thing – just a nice gesture to help people who are struggling with having a family member in the hospital during the holidays.

Once we laid out the spread of turkey, ham, macaroni & cheese, sweet potatoes, mashed potates, casseroles and all the other traditional holiday foods, you could see the look of gratitude in the eyes of the SECU families.

Speaking personally, it felt good to do something like this on a number of levels.

I haven’t been able to really function normally since the shootings in Newtown on Friday. I haven’t slept much. I’ve cried a lot. And I haven’t been able to tune the images of those 20 precious children out of my mind. I’ve hurried home as soon I could after work and hugged my children so much that they probably think I’m weird. And that helped a little.

But I’m just sad. Really sad. Probably sadder than I’ve ever been in my life. And I can’t shake it. Part of me doesn’t want to shake it. I never want to forget the images of the people of Newtown and the parents of those lost children.

I’m not going on a political or anti-gun rant here. That’s not the purpose of this. I do hope that if ANYTHING positive comes out of this tragedy, it will be that we as a collective people need to have the frank discussion about whether gun freedoms are more important than protecting the lives of our children and citizens. We have to priortize. That needs to happen and it needs to happen now.

No, the reason I’m writing this is to note that what we did last night – the simple act of reaching out and helping other people by serving food and visiting with them for a couple of hours – did wonders for me. It didn’t erase the sadness, but it did show me that simple human decency can go a long way towards illuminating the good in the world, and pushing the negative away. At least for a little while.

Chances are pretty good that I’ll get in my car today, turn on CNN and start to cry again at some point. How can you not, when 18 more children have to be buried in the coming weeks, not to mention the brave teachers who also lost their lives?

I’ll probably rush home tonight and every night this week so I can hug my family and sit down to dinner with them, something I should strive to do every night of every week.

And I’ll cope as best I can, hopeful that the cloud will lift by Christmas.

The best advice I can give – whether you’re a parent feeling what I’m feeling, or just someone with this aching sense of loss – is to get out and do something good for someone. Make a meal. Give a toy. Rake a yard. Drive someone to the store or to church. Just do something.

Because if anything good can come of this senseless tragedy, maybe it will be that we look up from our laptops and newspapers and TVs and video games and look at the world around us and the beautiful people in it – and maybe we’ll appreciate it and love it a little bit more than we did before last Friday.