There’s been a lot of news coming out lately about December 14, 2012, a day that I never want to relive ever again for as long as I’m on this Earth. Not just because of the events that occurred in Newtown on that day, but because of the way I experienced it – alone, on a train for seven hours, hurtling away from Connecticut to visit friends in Virginia when all I really wanted to do was get off the damn train and run right back to my house and hug my family. But then I got to Virginia, saw The Hobbit, and generally had a very nice time with my friends. It provided a blessed distraction from wanting to curl up in bed and be a hysterical mess.
When I got home to CT after a few welcome days of trying to forget, there was a noticeable silence in the air. It felt like the entire state was suppressed under the suffocating weight of those souls taken too soon. I felt like I needed to do something but I wasn’t sure what.
A few days later, UConn established the Sandy Hook Scholarship Fund. This foundation would supply scholarships to dependents and relatives of those affected directly by the tragedy. My parents delivered a massive donation to kickstart the foundation, and since its founding on December 17th, 2012, it has raised over $1.2 million.
My response to this donation by my parents was “Of course.” One time I ran into my dad at the grocery store and he just handed me 20 dollars because he figured I could use extra cash. Or maybe it was because I was in dirty sweatpants and he wanted me to not look like a bum. Ah well.
My other response to this donation was …what can I do? I don’t have that kind of money. I don’t even have the kind of brain space to devote to dreaming about one day having that kind of money to call my own. What could I do to honor those people whose lives were cut far too short? How can I call attention to the kind of change I want to see in the world? How can I raise money or do something?
My first response was I’ll run two half marathons and raise money for the fund! Never mind I have a bad back, the cool thing to do is run and raise money! But then in March I bruised my sacroiliac joint because of all the ‘sitting around all day and then running 8 miles at night’ which my body couldn’t handle (I can only run in the morning, because otherwise my back can’t handle the sudden jarring shift from sitting to running) and couldn’t run for three months. Then, I thought about recording some songs for Christmas and selling the CDs, or crocheting blankets. But then I realized I didn’t nearly have the kind of time as a full-time researcher/professor to even put towards getting together the resources that would require such a feat.
And then, a week ago, I had a day off during Thanksgiving break. I decided to do two yoga practices in one day (because that’s how much I like yoga). I had just come off of reading the Sandy Hook report that was published, and thinking about the implications of all the new information about the day’s events and the shooter’s life. During my practice, I started thinking again about what I could possibly do to honor those lives lost.
Halfway through a chatarunga, it came to me. I have this. I have yoga. I have the way it changes me as a person, and the way it alters how I approach the world. Yoga makes me better so I can subsequently make the world better. I can do yoga.
So, I would like to announce an initiative I’m calling Salutations for Sandy Hook.
This is great for anyone deepening their practice, or someone just starting out. You attempt to complete either 28 hours or 28 days of yoga practice in the month of September, and then at the end of the month you donate 5 dollars for every yoga practice you completed (I was originally going to donate 108 dollars because that’s an auspicious number in yoga, but that’s not a multiplier of 5 so roll with me). These practices don’t have to be one hour; we’re all super strapped for time during the holidays, so if it’s 15 minutes, it’s 15 minutes. But the point is, for each of these practices you will breathe and move and honor one of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. So far, I have done three to honor Victoria Soto, Charlotte Bacon, and Mary Sherlach.
These practices do not have to be vinyasa/hot/crazy. I’ve done a yin practice, a hot vinyasa flow, and a gentle Hatha, because I’m all about variety in my practice. Also, remember, if you’ve only got fifteen minutes and you just want to sit quietly and meditate on the life you have picked for that day, that’s totally workable as well.
You’ll notice I said 28, and not 26. 26 people from Sandy Hook died at the school on that day, but 28 in total lost their lives that day. I will be doing two yoga practices for the shooter and his mother.
The yoga begins when we can look at the things that cannot possibly be forgiven or understood, and say “I understand it.” When life is awesome it’s easy to practice the art of contentment and gratefulness. When life kicks you in the stomach, can you remember to breathe through it?
Those two practices will no doubt be the most difficult, because I have so much grief, anger, and heartbreak stirring inside of me when it concerns those two individuals and their actions or inactions that led to this event. But if we cannot forgive, those emotions will have no where to go but back into our bodies. And that festering of wounds is the most damaging thing we can do to ourselves. So even though it’s probably not going to take one or two or a 100 yoga practices to forgive, I can at least try to.
Now, I can see why someone might not want to take this path with their practice. If you are one of those people, of course you are welcome to only do the 26 days of yoga and that would be totally fine.
Seane Corn once said “It’s easy to stay home and explain how the world can be this utopia. It’s different when I have to go out into the world and I am confronted by things that are unimaginable and I have to love even then. I have to forgive even then. Otherwise I continue to perpetuate this separation that is the disease of the world.”
Yoga makes me better. It makes me want to make others better. And given this tragedy, that’s all we can do. Be kind. Be empathetic. Be better.
Here are all of the foundations I could find that have been established in memoriam of Sandy Hook victims or in support of Sandy Hook victims and their families. There’s probably a ton more, and if I find any more I will be sure to post them.
The Sandy Hook Scholarship Fund
The Victoria Leigh Soto Fund
The Chase Kowalski Fund (profits support kids and athletics)
The Barden Family Fund (profits go to support the Barden family)
The Ana Grace Fund
The Lauren Rousseau Scholarship, in which one graduating senior from Danbury High will be awarded a scholarship. Contributions can be sent to DHS Scholarship Fund, c/o Nancy Golden, 43 Clapboard Ridge Rd, Danbury, Ct 06811 with the memo line denoting Lauren Rousseau Memorial Scholarship.
The Avielle Foundation (works for mental health research)
Wings of Change: The Dylan Hockley Fund (this fund specifically works with and for kids suffering from autism or other spectrum disabilities)
The Jack Pinto Fund
The Emilie Parker Fund
The Ana Grace Marquez-Greene Music Scholarship at Western Connecticut State University
The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation has established Joey’s Fund, a wing of its foundation in Josephine Gay’s name in order to help kids and families coping with autism. See the website for more details.
The Madeline Hsu Memorial Fund: PO Box 640, Newtown, CT 06470
The Sandy Hook Promise
The Newtown Memorial Fund
The Benjamin Wheeler Fund (supports children studying music)
More can be found by clicking here.