This week marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. One of my “forgiveness heroes” is Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jessie Lewis, who lost his life protecting fellow classmates on that sad day in December of 2012. I first learned about Scarlett and her work in 2016 when she was a guest on a radio show that I regularly listened to. She and the host were discussing how we constantly tell kids what not to do:
“Stop squirming in your seat. Don’t hit your classmate. Say no to drugs.”
But rarely do we tell them what they can do when they are feeling anxious, angry, or overwhelmed. Scarlett pointed out that young kids having a difficult time don’t raise their hands in class and say, “Excuse me, Ms. Johnson. I am experiencing a lot of strong emotions that I do not know how to process. Could I please schedule an appointment with you and the guidance counselor to discuss this at your earliest convenience?” No, but they do let us know in other ways if we are observant. When given some basic tools, kids can learn to navigate these feelings. Scarlett co-created such a tool kit, but I’ll come back to that in a minute.
After hearing that interview, I purchased Scarlett’s powerful book titled Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope & Forgiveness. And what an inspiring journey it was and continues to be! The book is full of remarkable stories leading up to that awful day, as well as the many messages she has received from Jesse since his passing. The title came from three words Jesse wrote on a chalkboard just days before the shooting: nurturing healing love. Scarlett did not notice the chalkboard until after her son’s death. Because these words were not typical for him (or any first grader for that matter), she knew it was a special message from Jesse instructing her how to carry on after the tragedy. These words inspired her to start the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement to teach kids what they can do when they are anxious, angry, or overwhelmed. The following words are directly from her website.
- Nurturing means loving kindness and gratitude.
- Healing means forgiveness.
- Love is compassion in action.
The Choose Love Formula™ is based on the profound result of practicing the character values inherent in “Nurturing Healing Love,” which are:
Courage + Gratitude + Forgiveness + Compassion in Action.
These four character values are easy to learn. When practiced, they strengthen the health and resilience of individuals, improve the community and culture of groups and promote a safer, more peaceful and loving world. She realized that love, connection, and belonging are universal wants and needs that connect all of humanity, and that if the shooter had received more of them in his life, the tragedy might never have happened. Scarlett set out on a mission to teach as many people around the world about this message, beginning with children.
Rather than analyzing the details of this and other mass shootings and looking for someone to blame, Scarlett chose to focus her attention on a solution. The fact that she eventually found compassion for the young man who killed her son is indeed a miracle. While not condoning his actions or that of any other perpetrator of violent crimes, she realized that not choosing love would keep her stuck in the pain of that horrible December day. It really touched me when she said she believes there were 28 victims that day, not the usual 26 associated with the Sandy Hook tragedy. She includes the shooter and his mother who also died that day. This is the kind of compassion that can change the world to one where love and peace prevail.
I know it’s a heavy topic and may not be for everyone, but I highly recommend Scarlett’s book, Nurturing Healing Love. The overall message is one of hope, not despair. With honesty, tenderness, and courage, she shares what happened, her healing process, and the many miracles that have occurred through it all. In fact, I had my own little miracle while reading this book. I finished reading it on June 30, which I found out in one of the last chapters is Jesse’s birthday. When I made this connection, I got that tingling sensation all through my body. It felt like Jesse had just recruited me to help share his message of nurturing healing love. I can’t think of a better birthday or holiday gift to him than to choose love and help others do the same.
If you’d like to learn more about Scarlett Lewis and the Jessie Lewis Choose Love Movement, click this link. And if I can be of assistance in helping you choose love during this often stressful and sometimes lonely holiday season, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a Spiritual Coaching Session or private Family Constellations Session. Except for December 24 & 25, I will be doing sessions through the end of the year. You can also join our weekly online A Course in Miracles study group every Tuesday at 7 PM Eastern / 4 PM Pacific. We will be sharing some holiday miracles on Tuesday, December 27 at our regular time so join us if you can!
This holiday season, no matter what appears to be happening in the world of form, may you find ways to choose nurturing healing love…especially for yourself!
What is kept apart from love cannot share its healing power, because it has been separated off and kept in darkness.
A Course in Miracles ~ T-14.VI.2:4