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Dawn's Notes

When Life Gives You Lemons - March 2016
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

It is a little-known fact that, as early as May 18, 1927, a school massacre took place in Bath Township, Michigan, killing 38 elementary students and six adults. Fifty-eight others were wounded. Back then, school massacres were infrequent events, but they are in the news more often in recent years.

The school carnage in Michigan was done by Andrew Kehoe, a fifty-five-year-old electrician who was angry and disgruntled after being defeated in an election for township clerk. Before leaving home on the morning of May 18, Kehoe killed his wife—she had tuberculosis for which there seemed to be no cure. He also put his horses in an enclosure and wired their legs together before firebombing the house and outbuildings—he did not mean for the horses to escape.

When neighbors responded to help Kehoe put out his house fire, Kehoe yelled to them, “Boys, you’re my friends. You better get out of here. You better head down to the school,” as he drove off toward town.

At 8:30, an alarm clock, which had been set by Kehoe earlier, detonated the dynamite Kehoe had hidden under the north wing of Bath Consolidated School. Later, 500 pounds of dynamite were found under the south end of the school, but miraculously, it had not gone off with the first blast as Kehoe had intended.

Kehoe had been hired to make repairs to the school’s lighting system, giving him ample opportunity to plant the dynamite and wires under the school. Last, Kehoe killed himself by blowing up his truck while he was still in it.

Without a doubt, life was tough for Kehoe and his family. He was rejected in an election; his wife was very sick; his finances were in trouble. But Kehoe’s choice to harm others because of his own pain was unconscionable.

The second largest school massacre in the U.S. occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, when 26 people, 20 children and six adults, died at the hands of a crazed gunman by the name of (over) Adam Lanza. (Lanza had killed his mother in their home before going to Sandy Hook. He, like Kehoe, killed himself after his rampage.)

Attacks on schools, colleges, and work places continue to happen at even greater frequencies. Imagine the shock and pain of parents hearing their child has been killed at school!

After the Sandy Hook incident, Warren Tidwell, 37, of Alabama, came up with the idea of honoring the 26 who had died at Sandy Hook School by doing 26 acts of kindness in their memory—an attempt to make something good come from the tragedy. In regard to his 26 acts of kindness, Tidwell said, “It was not meant to forever dwell on the tragedy. It was a catalyst meant to help people think about being kind daily.”

This past year, shortly before the third anniversary of the shootings, students at Pleasant Valley Elementary Schools in Hartford, Connecticut, were asked to perform kindnesses. The teachers did not explain why; some of the youngest students were too young to remember what had happened at Sandy Hook anyway. Students wrote their “kindnesses” on slips of paper which were put on a wall in the school, and the list of kindnesses grew and grew!

Kindnesses included raking the yard for a neighbor, giving food to a food drive, or sharing a dessert. One quiet girl stopped another child from picking on a classmate, telling her to “be nice.” Many adults took the 26 acts of kindness challenge. One person paid for 1,000 pieces of pizza at a restaurant for people in Newtown. Some donated money to scholarships; some paid for another’s cup of tea; one gave a box of chocolates to a stranger. Another paid a bill for someone in need; others became volunteers.

Like parents of Sandy Hook, you too may have experienced the pain of losing a child. Or maybe a sibling, parent, spouse, or friend has died. Any kind of loss can bring excruciating pain.

When bad things happen, most people do not even consider doing something to hurt someone else. But we all have choices to make after any negative situation. When life gives us sour lemons, there are times when it would be very easy to become bitter. But even lemons can be turned into something wonderful and sweet—simple acts of kindness for someone else. Through kindness, you will honor the one you love.

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice 709 Liberty Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator