Smoke Signals: Tragedy puts a somber veil on holiday column tradition

by TIM TROGLEN | REPORTER Published:

For the first time in almost 10 years I had trouble writing a holiday column.

This year I tried writing about toys, Santa Claus and Christmas memories.

But my mind kept going back to the 20 children and six adults who will not be with their families this year.

On Dec. 14, a man armed with several weapons shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killed 26 innocent people before killing himself.

Each time I think about the kids, and the terror they must have felt, my heart breaks again and I have to fight back tears.

I keep thinking that but for the grace of God that could have happened in Ohio and my 4-year-old nephew JJ, or his 2-year-old sister, Adah, could have been among the victims. They are too young for public school, but they do attend day care.

More tears.

I've written a Christmas column each year I've been with my company. It's something I enjoy. I would even consider it tradition. But as the deadline approached, it appeared I was going to miss this year.

I was still struggling Dec. 17 as I waited for the Hudson School Board meeting to begin.

Sitting silently, I asked for help from above.

What I didn't know is that help would soon come from two different sources.

I still had several minutes to go before the meeting so I glanced at my cell phone and scanned various social media accounts. I noticed a Facebook post from my executive editor, Erica Peterson.

"Every day, unspeakably horrific, tragic, awful things happen. And, every day, indescribably wonderful, miraculous, heartwarming things happen, too. I am going to focus on the latter today," Erica wrote.

I was moved by the simple, but powerful post. Her words rang true to my heart.

Later, during the meeting, Doreen Osmun, director of curriculum and instruction, while giving a report, talked about the shooting at the school.

"We have so much to be thankful for," Osmun said through tears.

I FELT HER pain, but also hear her words.

The sentiments from both Erica and Doreen touched me emotionally and ideas began to form.

I made a decision.

There is nothing like the kindness and love of a child, especially at Christmas time. And while the world is suddenly missing 20 angels this year, I will do my best to help make up for that lost kindness and love anyway I can.

This year I will not pass a Christmas kettle without giving a little extra.

I will not turn away from the person standing at the corner, holding a sign asking for money.

Nor will I scoff at the person who walks up to me at a gas station requesting change. I will do this and be thankful for it.

Everyone I come in contact with will get a smile and a nod because I've decided to try and put more kindness into this world than I take out.

That is the least I can do for those angels and the heroes who died trying to save them.

But I can't do it alone. How about we all strive, through the season andcoming year, to give more kindness than we get?

Environmentalists talk about leaving a carbon footprint. I hope we leave a footprint of giving.

Will you join me?

Let's make sure not a single person escapes our presence without a smile, a kind word or a wave. I've found that a smile can soften the crustiest exterior and melt the coldest heart.

And to be honest, we never know if the next person we give a smile to could be on their way to do someone harm.

A smile is a small price to pay for the potential saving of a life. Thanks for your readership and kindness in 2012. I hope you all have a wonderfully Merry Christmas and a safe New Year.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4183

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