Like all of you, I have been searching for something to grasp on to since the horrific events that occurred in Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. When the news flashes first appeared, I instantly recognized the school. Not because I had ever been to that school—I have visited schools in Newtown, CT, even schools called Sandy Hook in other states. But I recognized the school because it looked incredibly familiar, like so many of the elementary schools that I am welcomed into every year. I thought of the librarians I have visited with over the years, every single person who has ever buzzed me in at the front door, had me sign in at the front office and asked to scan my driver's license. I thought of the principals who take time out of their busy schedules to welcome me to their school. I thought of all of the teachers that I have met, all of the teachers that I know. And of course, thought of all of the young faces in my audiences over the years. Every single school that I have ever visited has taken great pride in their community and I have always been so thankful that they have granted me the distinct honor to speak at their schools.
As the weekend went on, my heart ached to do something. But the community in Newtown, CT doesn't need boxes of stuff and they don't need to reconstruct buildings. They need to rebuild their lives, which are unfathomably changed. Like all parents, I hugged my children more tightly and focused on the small moments like never before. On Sunday evening, Gina and I were scheduled to play the role of Elf and Conductor at Santa's Trains at Look Park here in Northampton. It's a marvelous display of miniature trains and a holiday display that is the stuff of Norman Rockwell paintings. And of course, Santa is there to listen to the children's greatest hopes for Christmas morning. My job was to punch every child's "magical ticket" as they entered. As each child approached, I got down on one knee so that I could be on their level and asked for their ticket. I then asked their age and would punch a hole for each of their years. And I always looked directly into their eyes. In each set of those eyes, be the kids three or thirteen, I saw the same two things—magic and wonder.
We as a people need to make magic for our children. We need to preserve their wonder. We of course need to put pressures on our legislatures to ensure that such a tragedy never again occurs in our schools, but on a daily basis—it's magic and wonder that we need to foster.
I salute the faculty, staff and administrators of our nation's schools today more than ever. It is surely a challenging morning to be returning to school. But I know that this group of people is what keeps our nation moving forward. They are creating life long learners and will stop at nothing for our children.
They are making magic, they are preserving wonder.
I posted a high resolution version of the "Make Magic, Preserve Wonder" image on my website. Please feel free to print it out for your classroom, your teachers' lounge, wherever it might bring you comfort: http://www.studiojjk.com/preserve_wonder.jpg