An 11-year-old Michigan boy wants to make December 22, “Sandy Hook Day,” on which we honor the 20 victims of the massacre by donating a toy to Toys for Tots in their memory.
We got our first snowfall here in Michigan last Friday. It wasn’t much; not the blizzard the heartland got, just enough to frost the landscape and raise my hopes for a white Christmas. But it was because of the snow that I was channel surfing through our local news stations in search of a weather forecast, when I came across a young boy with an expression on his face that made me take my finger off the channel button.
His name was Noah Peralta. He is 11 years old; a sixth grader at L’anse Creuse Middle School in Clinton Township, Michigan, which is a middle-class suburb north of Detroit. Noah was trying to put words to his feelings about Sandy Hook. “I was really depressed and sad because of the kids that died” Noah told the reporter from WDIV TV. But it wasn’t his words that arrested me. They were what might be expected under the circumstances, speaking to a stranger about such a personal matter. In fact, I thought Noah was very grown up and measured for an 11-year-old, a kid any parent would be proud of. But his face said something else to me. It said “I have feelings I have no words for.”
I’m probably projecting of course. On the subject of Sandy Hook, I think most of us have feelings we have no words to adequately express. But I cringed all the same when the interviewer followed up Noah’s admission that he felt such sadness with an insensitive “Why?” The question felt like much too personal an intrusion, because even as an adult, I would have had a hard time speaking those thoughts out loud. Why was I sad? “Because a monster tore this nation’s heart out, Lady.” But Noah, displaying much more forbearance than I would have, trudged determinedly through with the only words he could find. “It was just sick how that guy could (do) that. They’ll never have another Christmas or birthday.” And while Noah’s answer was disjointed, and was not really an answer at all, anyone listening understood exactly what he was trying to say.
Noah was being interviewed by WDIV because, while trying to make sense of his feelings, he had the idea to make December 22 “Sandy Hook Day” in honor of the children who were murdered. To commemorate the day, Noah wants people to donate a toy to Toys for Tots on December 22, every year from now on. With the help of his father, a graphic designer, Noah created a website, Gifts for 20, urging people to remember the 20 children killed by donating a toy. You can find Gifts For 20 on Facebook and Twitter too.
I was so impressed with Noah, I nominated him as a hero to Kids Are Heroes, a group that honors kids who give of themselves to their communities. If you have never visited, you should take a peek at their website. There are some amazing kids out there.
I also sent my elf to Big Lots, and he and my young granddaughters brought 21 new toys to the Toys For Tots collection center at the nearby Harley Davidson dealership the afternoon of December 22; the 20 I sent them to buy and one more from 5-year-old Madison and 8 year-old Jenna, who pooled their leftover Christmas shopping money to buy one very sparkly Barbie doll. They are too young to know about Sandy Hook, but they are not too young to know that the magic of Christmas does not lie in what you receive, but in love you give away. That is our family’s gift, 21 toys, donated in memory of the Sandy Hook children so cruelly lost. If it were not for Noah Peralta, we would not have thought to make such a gesture. I hope it will help my heart to heal just a little. I also hope you will consider joining me in supporting Noah’s campaign next year, and for all the December 22nds to come, especially if your heart can use some healing too.
Today, Noah Peralta, Sandy Hook Day, and Gifts for 20, are On Our Radar.
This post has been updated.
Photos are from the Gifts for 20 Facebook page.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
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