Beyond Grief and Fear, Families Look for Inspiration

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Horror and despair has again hit home as the details of the shootings of moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., emerge. Pictures of innocent victims, the youngest age 6, appear on the screen, and we grieve for their families and friends.

It seems that nowhere is safe anymore. Going to the movies in the summer is as natural as lying in a hammock in the backyard or reading a book at the beach. Yet, this horrible act has happened. My sense of security is shaken, but I am determined not to let that fear take over and affect my children. I want them to see the bigger picture, not simply the scenes of gunshot wounds and senseless violence, but points of light that always appear in the midst of darkness-the 13-year-old girl who did CPR to try to save her 6-year-old companion or the three men who shielded their friends from flying bullets and who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Ultimately, I turn off the TV news, so that the constant barrage of bloodshed does not come live into my living room each day, so that my youngest child does not absorb repeated doses of pain. We look at other news, and we see good things happening every day. We take inspiration from the climber Spencer West, who raised $750,000 for international charity Free The Children by climbing to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. West, who lost his legs at age 5, said he set out to climb the African peak not only to redefine what is possible for himself, but to inspire others to overcome obstacles and challenges of their own and to give back to communities that need help.  His climb raised money to help bring clean water to Kenyans, who last year experienced the region’s worst drought in 60 years. Closer to home, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill geology student Roger Putnam is climbing dizzying heights to map the world’s largest chunk of granite. The endeavor combines physical and intellectual strength, and courage as he collects rock samples off the face of El Capitan,  a vertical rock in California’s Yosemite Valley, in his quest to discover how mountain ranges are formed.

But we do not spend our time reacting to news. We move out of our living room to help others. Volunteering empowers our family with a sense of purpose, just as it helps those we help. And there are many people who need help in the Triangle, from hungry children to homeless families and those who are isolated. Despair comes in many shapes but can be eased with care.

Looking for a way to give back to the community and help others? We’ve compiled this list of volunteer and community service opportunities for Triangle families, teens and older youth. Some organizations are looking for volunteers to help in August.

How can you help your children deal with news of violent incidents? The National PTA offers useful advice in its article, Discussing Hate and Violence with Your Children.

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