Acts of Kindness

I’m certain I share with many of you a deep sadness over the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. It has been a mingle of emotions for me: shock, anger, numbness. We have experienced so much grief in the last three years I sometimes wonder how much more I can process. When my brother was suddenly and tragically killed on January 29, 2010 it felt like my world fell out of orbit. There was no warning, no saying goodbye, no time to prepare my heart. Just pure, unadulterated pain. An empty hole. When my son was diagnosed with leukemia on February 1, 2012 it was different. A slow, persistant undertone of fear. I’ve stared down the possibility of losing my son for almost a year now. It’s like an aching tug on my heart. As if I can feel the pull of someone trying to create that empty hole where my son would be if he left this earth.

Many people tell me they don’t know how I function. They tell me that the way we reach out to people is inspiring. I want you to know the truth: I’m able to reach beyond our circumstances because I have a merciful and compassionate savior Jesus. He is the well that I draw from when I feel like I have nothing left to give. It is too painful to stay buried in my grief and fear. If I didn’t have the hope of inspiring joy and courage in others, I feel like I would collapse under the pain. Everyone, everywhere is hurting in some way. I want you to know that sorrow does not preclude generosity, joy or compassion. Sometimes it is the best catalyst.

If I have anything to say to the grieving families of Newton, CT, it’s this: you choose what happens next. You choose whether you live out an Esther opportunity in the years to come. The hearts and minds of the world are with you. As people pour out compassion to you, harness it. Use this incredible moment to love other people back. I hope that you will find as I have that the process of moving through your place of grief into a place of generosity eases your pain. Purpose is a powerful thing.

For those of us who aren’t grieving a personal loss but are instead facing the fear of an evil world, I have advice for you too. Turn off your TV, tune out the talking heads politicking this tragedy and stop listening to the speeches no matter how soaring the rhetoric. Take your loved ones by the hand and walk outside your front door on a mission of compassion. Harness all that fear, all that sadness and use it love other people in real life. Do small acts of kindness for complete strangers. Do big acts of charity for families in need. Stop clicking, texting, tweeting, facebooking and commenting. Look a real human being in the eye and show them love in a tangible way. Hug people, talk to people, listen to people. Our technology has dehumanized our relationships to the point where we believe a “like” or a “retweet” is somehow enough. It will never be enough. We all need to reverse this imbalance. Tactile interaction first, technological interaction second.

So on this day my family did just that. We went home from church, prepared for our acts of kindness and battled our way to the mall. We stood inside the entrance and handed out 4 dozen roses and 5 dozen candy canes. We bought 10 Starbucks gift cards and gave them to complete strangers. We opened doors and wished people Merry Christmas. I recount the things we did not for a pat on the back but to honor the memory of everyone who lost their lives in Newton, CT. Each act of kindness was done in response to this tragedy. This is our small way of turning the tide. We are warriors for love. The gunman’s goal was to devastate as many lives as he could, as quickly as he could. Our mission today was to touch as many lives as we could to prove that good can conquer evil. I wish I could look him in the eye and tell him: you did not win; you died a coward and made a nation of people more driven than ever to love and care for each other.

So, if you received an act of kindness today, all I ask is that you pass it on.

I name the precious, innocent lives lost because they deserve to be remembered:

Charlotte Bacon (6), Daniel Barden (7), Olivia Engel (6), Josephine Gay (7), Ana Marquez-Green (6), Dylan Hockley (6), Madeleine Hsu (6), Catherine Hubbard (6), Chase Kowalski (7), Jesse Lewis (6), James Mattioli (6), Grace McDonnell (7), Emilie Parker (6), Jack Pinto (6), Noah Pozner (6), Caroline Previdi (6), Jessica Rekos (6), Avielle Richman (6), Benjamin Wheeler (6), Allison Wyatt (6), Rachel Davino (29), Dawn Hochsprung (46), Anne Marie Murphy (52), Mary Sherlach (56), Victoria Soto (27), Lauren Rousseau (30), Nancy Lanza (52)

Reducing Toxic Exposure: How to Choose a Hand Sanitizer

Over the last few years I’ve started to be more picky about what products we put on our skin. On one hand I’m not going to spend 10x the normal price of something just because it’s “organic” on the other hand I’m not going to buy the cheapest toxic-laden version either. Like most moms I strive to land someplace in the middle. I’ll be writing a series of posts where I compare products. My goal is the find the most budget conscious choice that reduces toxic exposure for your kids (and mine). Today’s review: hand sanitizer

Way back in “normal” life we did not use hand sanitizer on a regular basis in our home. For the most part I believe that a certain level of bacterial & viral exposure is necessary to build good immune response. But then my son got leukemia. The sad fact is that his immune system will not be normal for a very long time. He cannot fight off a cold like a regular boy and something as simple as strep throat could land us in the hospital. So hand sanitizer is one way we protect him as much as possible. This does not exempt us from proper hand washing though!

There are several different active ingredients in hand sanitizers. Here are the ones I try to avoid:

  • Benzalkonium Chloride: it has a toxicity rating of 4 out of 10 from the EWG
  • Triclosan: the most toxic by far, very rarely used in sanitizer now, rated 7
  • Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol): toxicity rating of 3 but with 12,000 documented cases of alcohol poisoning in kids, we try to avoid it

My favorite hand sanitizer brand: CleanWell

They offer three different versions of hand sanitizer: foam, spray or wipes. You can get them in three packs on Amazon.


Why I like it:

  • we are avoiding the more toxic antimicrobials
  • it doesn’t sting if you have a cut on your hands
  • it doesn’t have any artificial fragrances (which are now being identified as highly toxic)
  • it’s biodegradable and non-toxic
  • it doesn’t dry out our skin
  • it has a toxicity rating of 1 from the EWG

Active Ingredient:

Thymus Vulgaris Oil (thyme oil, a natural antimicrobial)

Other Ingredients (from their foaming sanitizer):

  • Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice (aloe vera, a natural emollient and skin conditioner)
  • Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract (a natural antioxidant)
  • Copper PCA (a skin conditioner and naturally occurring mineral found in human skin)
  • Glycolic Acid (an alpha hydroxy skin conditioner)
  • Hydrolized Oats (a skin conditioner)
  • Origanum Vulgare Oil (a natural essential oil)
  • Sodium Citrate (a natural pH balancer)
  • Sodium Decylglucosides Hydroxypropyl Sulfonate (a plant-based emulsifi er derived from corn sugar and coconut oil)
  • Sodium Methyl 2- Sulfolaurate (a natural cleanser derived from coconut oil)
  • Sulfated Castor Oil Methyl Ester (a natural cleanser derived from castor beans)
  • Water

Other Hand Sanitizers to Try

EO Hand Sanitizer, Organic Lavender, 8 fl oz (240 ml): If we are going to use alcohol, let’s at least make it non-gmo, organic ethanol.
Argentus Silver Thyme Hand Sanitizer: made with a proprietary combination of silver, zinc, aloe vera & thyme.
BabyGanics Foaming Hand Sanitizer: This one uses benzalkonium chloride but it still has a toxicity rating of 1 from EWG.

photo credit: Tim Shearer via photopin cc
(Disclosure: Affiliate links present.)