The days before Christmas were marked in a different way this year by many who were deeply affected by the tragedy of the Newtown shootings on December 14 and the many young lives lost so suddenly. It was a bleak reminder that the potential for violence exists everywhere, even in “safe” communities, even in a season of holy observances. Some people reacted with despair. Others chose to exercise their power to battle violence with knowledge and kindness.
We are fortunate to live in a place which is undoubtedly safer than many regions of the world. The generosity of our region shines through all year long, but particularly during the holiday season. Again this year many businesses, groups and individuals took the time to think about and help those in need this season.
My thanks today are on behalf of those who supported Southwest Crisis Services and its clients this season, although I am sure many other agencies who work with those in need are equally grateful for the community’s generosity. It should be a beautiful season but it can be bleak for those who are experiencing abuse, family breakdown, poverty, and other crises. Please be assured that your donations – food, toys, clothing, gifts, volunteered time, and money- were appreciated and helped many families this year.
The impulse to share, to reach out with acts of kindness, is something to be cultivated year-round. We need to work to understand the root causes of violence in many forms in our communities. Rather than feeling helpless we need to feel empowered to say “I do not accept this in my community”. It begins with educating ourselves, by asking some hard questions. Why is verbal and emotional abuse accepted in some families and relationships? Why do we allow ourselves to be surrounded by violent games, movies and television shows? Why do we remain silent when we know domestic abuse happens next door? Why have we given up our power?
The massacre at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut was a long way from here. It was a massive, tragic event. Yet all around us, here in our own communities, are “smaller” events of violence on a daily basis: bullying online or on the school ground; financial abuse of seniors; emotional abuse between spouses; sexual abuse. We may have the option to ignore it, but will we ever be the community we want to be if we choose complacency?
We thank all of you who have taken action to help those who experience abuse and interpersonal violence in our region. We also thank those who have reached out to learn more about and work on the issue this past year. And we invite those who would like to know more to contact Southwest Crisis Services for a presentation, or join us at an awareness event this year, starting with “One Billion Rising” on February 14.
Wishing us all a more peaceful community in 2013.
Teresa Cole, Executive Director, Southwest Crisis Services