Newtown, Connecticut is all America.
We grieve for our lost children and their teachers.
But in those first grade classrooms, we see what America can mean, not in death, but in the lives of joy and hope reflected here.
Robbie Parker spoke of his daughter Emilie as “bright, creative and very loving, adding “I am proud to be her father.”
Donna Soto, mother of Vicki, told us she expected Vicki would do exactly as she did, shield her first graders from the gunman, telling him that they were in the gym. For that she lost her life.
Dawn Hochsprung, the principal, ran out of her office attempting to tackle the shooter. She lost her life together with five other educators, all women.
Mr. Parker urged us not to let this tragedy “turn into something that defines us.”
And how do we wish to be defined, we Americans who suffer with all of Newtown and who are appalled at the loss of life?
We shall be defined by the courage of the educators who gave their lives for the sake of their children.
“Greater love has no one than this, that she lay down her life for others.”
And we can be defined by the children. President Obama quoted Jesus’ saying, “Let the little children come to me. . .For such belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
This is the essence of Heaven, the bright, creative, loving and innocent spirits of Emilie and her classmates--the joy of being alive, having fun on the playground swooping down the turning slides, playing Hide ‘n Seek, house, school and being fearless astronauts on Mars.
Noted theologian Reinhold Neibuhr once observed that “The individual faces the eternal in every moment and in every action of his life.”
And what is this “eternal” if not the life reflected in the playfulness of children, their eagerness to explore, to discover and to find out? We see the “eternal” in every child’s curiosity about new stories, colorful, strange rocks or animals, and wondrous displays on an iPad. We see the “eternal” in their holding hands with each other as they faced danger, being together with playmates, then and now.
What is the “eternal” if not the dedication, love, sacrifice and courage of adults who serve others, who work tirelessly so that they can grow, develop into their fullest potential?
And we see the “eternal” in every parent’s loving her children, leading them off on a new adventure, to explore, discover and continue to wonder.
In our sorrow, we can remember Emilie, all her playmates, Vicki, and Dawn and learn from them, learn to see newer worlds of hope, faith and love in their lives.
Poet William Blake challenged us
“To see a World in a grain of sand,
And Heaven in a wild flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”
The Eternal is reflected in the wild flower and the grain of sand just as it is in Emilie’s joyfulness and Vicki’s total love and devotion to those she called her children.
Yes, Newtown is Our Town.