January 2013

I’ve thought a lot about whether or not I would mention the Newtown tragedy in this column. After all, by the time you read this, we all will have seen weeks of incessant media coverage of it and, eventually, other things will have happened to push this farther back in the papers or deeper in the Web. And after all, this is a highway and public works magazine, so what does this have to do with our subject matter?

But after reading, writing, editing so many of your profiles and speaking with so many of you over the years, there is one commonality among all of it — community.

I (as I’m sure many of you) have seen our own children in the faces of those who were murdered in Newtown. And I, too, have pretended to be those grieving parents, imagining how, or even if I could, cope with such horrifying loss. I’ve found myself feeling more than thinking about it, as if there really are no words to describe it, that it’s perhaps impossible as a human to do it.

And there will be a lot of talk about what can be done to prevent another tragedy like this one in our communities. And no matter what is ultimately done, whether it be stricter gun laws, improved mental health services access, strengthened security at our schools, reducing some of the violence in video games and movies, or a combination of all of these, a madman will still find a way to murder people if his sick mind is set to do it. But there is one thing that can be done that cannot be legislated — and it is the most difficult thing of all: love one another.

Though we’ve been taught to do this by our religions, we’ve never been able to accomplish this en masse. Love and respect are hard; that’s why we have laws because we have to force people to do it. But it can start small, at a sort-of grass roots level. At a time when we make New Year’s resolutions, like quitting smoking, eating more healthy foods, losing weight and so on, just trying to be nicer to people in general in some way every day, could be the best one of all. I don’t know if this could have stopped the murderer of these children and teachers in Newtown, but the other solutions aren’t foolproof either.

The saying goes, “the world is what we make of it,” and one smile, one kind word to someone every day is worth a try.

You can also view previous issues of Superintendent's Profile.