On a cold, rainy day in January 2013 I decided that I would plant a garden to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I was not a gardener. I did not have green thumb. I knew nothing about flowers. Knew nothing about the soil, or what it would take to accomplish this task.
All I knew was that I had to do something. I felt great pain. Pain for the families of the victims. Pain for a town I had never visited. Pain for a state many miles from my new home. Pain for the children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, especially on that fateful day. Pain for all children who would never feel totally safe again while at school. Pain for my own children who had no idea about the tragedy that had just occurred, or about the other tragedies at Columbine, Virginia Tech or Aurora. Pain that a parent feels when they realize that this world is getting more and more violent. Pain at the realization that I can’t always protect my children. The pain of knowing that their schools can’t even protect them.
I did not have much money to donate to the families of the Sandy Hook Angels, did not live close enough to try to help them in person, so I decided to start a Facebook page called Twenty Six Seeds of Love for Newtown. I started this page on December 19, 2012. I did not have many words to say at first besides I’m sorry. I’m thinking of you. I’m here for you. I will listen.
I then wrote a poem for Newtown, and I told them about my plans to make a tribute garden. I told my children that our tribute garden would be a garden of remembrance for some very special people. I could not tell them that it was a garden for victims of a school shooting. They are young and still attend school. They are not aware of the frequency and magnitude of these horrific tragedies. But someday they will be, and that breaks my heart.
I was just one person typing at a computer in Virginia. But the residents of Newtown heard me slowly but surely. They began to respond with likes, and thank yous, and stories of that horrible day. They opened their hearts to me, and I opened mine to them.
I shed many tears with them. I wanted so badly to take their tears away.
I posted almost daily for a very long time. I let them know that I was thinking about them. I let them know I would never forget them.
I let them know about my little garden.
I got permission to plant the garden at my daughter’s elementary school. My family and a few friends helped pull the weeds, and till the soil. We did not take this duty lightly. This was one very special garden.
I shared photos of the progress of the garden on my Facebook page, and the residents of Newtown were happy to see them.
People started to contact me to say that they too wanted to plant a garden for Newtown. I set a date of April 14, 2013 and created an online worldwide planting event. Many people from every single state participated, and many other countries. A whole girl scout troop from Maine joined in, and even some residents of Newtown.
I couldn’t believe how my little idea of planting a garden spread. I saw firsthand how fast love spreads if only you plant a few seeds.
Never forget to plant some seeds of your own.
The day of the planting was glorious. The sun was shining, and it was going to be a warm afternoon. We had a ceremony at the garden with beautiful music playing while the local children watered the 26 seeds that were planted early that morning. The water spilled out from watering cans that my husband painted the names of the 26 Angels on.
Ana, Chase, Dylan, Daniel, Catherine, Charlotte, Ben, James, Jack, Madeleine, Caroline, Olivia, Emilie, Grace, Noah, Avielle, Jesse, Josephine, Jessica, Allison, Mary, Rachel, Lauren, Victoria, Dawn and Anne Marie.
Drip by drip the water drenched the soil above the 26 seeds. As I watched I quietly said their names. I thought of each one of them. I remembered something that their families shared about them. I said a silent prayer and shed a few more tears.
My tears dried quickly under the brilliant sunshine. My sadness was washed away by the love that surrounded me and the very special garden.
I looked around so that I could soak it all in. So I could remember how one little idea sprouted into a great garden of love.
After the planting ceremony, my family went out to eat. As we walked across a small field to the restaurant this is what greeted us:
I was amazed at the sight. This message was meant for us to see on this very special day. We opened our hearts to love and were greeted by it. We heard the message loud and clear.
I still have permission to take care of the Twenty Six Seeds of Love Garden thanks to my kids caring Principal. I still remember each Angel’s birthday, and their special legacies. Through their families, they live on and continue to help so many children/people.
There are so many sad stories on the news today. There are too many tragedies. You may feel overwhelmed and insignificant. You may feel that nothing will ever change or that you can’t make a difference.
I am here to tell you that you matter. You can make a difference. It does not matter how big or small. It matters that you try to make the world a better place. And if you try — you will succeed.
For a kind heart and some love — is all that you need.
So go ahead and plant your own garden of love.
The world could surely use it right now.