Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Comfort of a Simple Crayon

Perhaps the single most identifiable item associated with the innocence of childhood is the Crayola crayon –and has been for over 100 years.  No doubt, this holiday season millions of children all over the world will receive a box full of crayons and a coloring book that will make them smile.
By chance, I was asked to speak at the Crayola Factory to their employees about heart health, only days after the unspeakable tragedy in Connecticut and only a few days before Christmas. Like so many parents, I was deeply saddened by the killing of innocent children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. How quickly the photos of families crying in pain became seared in our minds and will not be easy to forget. It was difficult to comprehend and yet in so many ways, it was so real, and hit so close to home.
I was literally driving around town trying to clear my mind of this sadness so that I could think of a few positive words to tell the employees at the Crayola Factory about how to live a healthy and fulfilling life.  I was clearly not in a creative mood.  All at once it dawned on me the obvious connection between the children of Connecticut and our hometown company, the Crayola Factory.  Indeed, the connection was obvious --it was the comfort, joy, and even the smell of a simple crayon and its symbolism as part of the innocence of childhood.
I could not help but imagine that the children who died had Crayola crayons in their little desks, or perhaps even more tragically, in their tiny hands when that evil madman ended their lives. I imagined the many colorful drawings that likely hung in those classrooms as the horror unfolded, or the unopened Christmas presents that surely included crayons and coloring books. I began to cry.
Just then, I heard a CNN reporter on the radio interviewing the Sandy Hook Elementary School librarian.  The librarian told the story of how she quickly shuffled the children in her classroom into a storage closet as soon as she realized that there was a shooter in the building.  The children were all so frightened, as was the librarian.  Sure enough, the librarian saw that there were boxes of crayons and coloring books in the storage closet and instructed her students to draw happy pictures, as she reassured them that “the good guys were on their way.”
Later that evening, I listened to the President’s remarks to families of Connecticut. After his call for peace and hope, I realized further how thousands of children from across the country –if not the world—would draw pictures to share their thoughts and well wishes for all those saddened by this national tragedy.  No doubt, these heartfelt drawings and cards of hope would be done beautifully, yet again, with the comfort of a simple crayon.
When the day of my talk came, I stood in front of the employees of the Crayola Factory and thanked them. I shared with them my reflections above and simply said...
“To think, that the very company you work for, a company that has been synonymous with childhood, was literally present at this elementary school, both in the desks and hands of those whose lives were cut short, and in the hands of those who survived. Imagine for a moment, that in so many ways, a part of each of you were present with these kids, comforting them in their last moments, helping yet others to survive. As a father of two beautiful young daughters –who I love more than life—I want to start by thanking each and every one of you at Crayola, for your quiet, but oh so important contribution to all children.”
It felt so surreal that my talk at Crayola, planned months prior, would happen to fall at this time. And yet, I felt so privileged to be at Crayola, to thank them in person. We joined hands, closed our eyes for a moment of reflection and simply said together, “May God bless all the children of the world.”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Unspeakable Horror

The tragedy that has occurred in Connecticut is an unspeakable horror --one that no parent should ever have to endure.  We live in a culture of violence that seems to be getting worse each day.

It reminds us that our daily worries should not distract from the most important things in life, our families and our health.  We must all learn to focus on what we have, not what we don't have --to take each day as a blessing and to try to always look at the glass as half-full, not half-empty.  We need to let go of our useless anxiety over what is missing in our lives and learn to enjoy and appreciate all of God's blessings.

I will be speaking at the Crayola Factory this coming Tuesday, December 18.  I do so with a heavy heart thinking of all of those children who likely had their own crayons nearby, perhaps in their hands, just as their lives were taken away by an evil madman.

All we can do is pray... and hug someone we love.