Both the great problems and the great blessings of the world are myriad. The alchemy of transmuting the former into the latter seems to cost us nearly all of our political capital these days — an investment we claim to make in the name of progress. But as we have seen in the past 11 months, the great problem of gun violence and the renewed debate over it sparked by the 12/14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School has not blessed us with progress or even a semblance of serious dialogue on the issue. Sadly, many of our most pressing problems are now thrown into great polemical ruts, where everyone clings to orthodoxy and no one gives an inch. After nearly a year of trying to navigate these ruts in the name of the innocents lost last December, Sandy Hook Promise has emerged with a new idea. Start the conversation not at points of departure, but at points of convergence: parents’ love for their children.
Sandy Hook Promise is calling its new initiative Parent Together, which will offer “proven tools and programs” to parents and all those dedicated to the safety and success of children in every community to help them foster “mental wellness, community connectedness, and gun safety.” Each of these goals, when pursued for the love of children rather than for the advancement of an ideology, for the passage or defeat of legislation, or for the cause of some ulterior strategy, taps our most authentic impulses, opens our minds, and dissolves our prejudices. How can mental health professionals detect the first signs of loneliness, estrangement, and isolation in children? What are the best practices in use by gun owners to safeguard their own children from accidents? What tools are available to educators and elected leaders to open the lines of communication in a community? Sandy Hook Promise wants to know.
Ultimately, Parent Together is about sharing the love of children, which is a powerful thing. It is why Newtown now evokes both great fears and open hearts in parents everywhere. We have seen the ruts where fear leads. Sandy Hook Promise is now interested in seeing where open hearts might lead. It is just one nascent organization from our relatively small community, but the strength of its message — that the protection of children is everyone’s business — has already attracted more than a quarter million people from across the country to its website (www.sandyhookpromise.org) to promise to Parent Together. It hopes to double that number by the 12/14 anniversary next month. Before too many more anniversaries pass, we hope that all the millions of promises made will be counted one day as promises kept.