While the short attention span of the media has turned its face away from Newtown, Connecticut, the effects of the senseless shootings still reverberate across our nation. The images of the children are burned deeply into each of us. It was a tragedy that none of us will ever forget.
Far too quickly, we move on to less important things. Fiscal cliffs and political infighting, football games and celebrity pregnancies have replaced the images of the children who were so suddenly removed from our arms.
References will be made to the “Newtown massacre” as politicians take their stand against or for guns. People with signs will take to the streets, bumper stickers will be sold and, as it always does, the nation will move on to other issues. Sandy Hook Elementary will fade away to the history books.
It isn’t right, it isn’t fair, but it will happen – if we let it.
Jessica Rekos was one of the children, a six-year- old bundle of pure joy who loved horses. According to her parents, Jessica lived and dreamed about horses. She took riding lessons and read books about horses. In so many ways, she was the perfect picture of a little girl who had been touched by the spirit of the horse.
For Christmas, her parents had a cowboy hat and boots wrapped and ready. In a few more years, Jessica would have her first horse. It was a promise made by her loving parents. When she turned ten, Jessica’s dream would come true.
That dream was shattered by gunfire.
But instead of disappearing, her shattered dream drifted back to earth to touch the lives of millions. Tear-streaked faces watched TV as the story unfolded. The lives of every precious child became part of us. The nation shared the horror, then the sadness, then a conviction – we are better than this. We are a nation that comes together, that protects our young, that helps our neighbor. We are a nation that refuses to fall to our knees.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the effect the massacre had on us at the ranch, which was much like the rest the nation. We were driven to do something, something that would carry Jessica’s name into the future. Since we work very closely with law enforcement in abuse and neglect cases, the answer came quickly.
Our idea was to place a couple of small plush horses in the trunk of every police unit so they can be handed to any child who needs the love of a horse. That way we can share what six-year-old Jessica knew about horses, about the magic between horses and children. We can let them be a part of Jessica’s dream by give them something to hold tightly, something in which to believe.
Let them know it as, “Jessica’s horse.” Will they understand? Does it matter?
Deep in the confines of the ranch office at Habitat for Horses, three people spent their day tying a small card onto a stuffed horse. All the card says is, “In Honor of Jessica Rekos,” with a link to the website containing her story. With over a hundred of them ready, the delivery to local police agencies will start this week.
This isn’t about Habitat for Horses. It isn’t fundraising or flag-waving. It’s about sharing, about children in pain, about that special magic that children and horses see in one another. It’s Jessica’s dream multiplied again and again.
Every police officer, every fireman, every emergency responder has vivid memories of seeing children with tear-streaked faces hiding behind doorways as their lives are ripped apart. With a couple of these horses in hand, they can change the fear into something less evil. It takes them a moment, but it might change the child’s life forever.
If you donate to this program, that’s where the money will go. (Write “Jessica’s horse” on the donation).)Even better, start the same program in your community. Or buy a bag of stuffed horses and take them to the police station or fire department and let them know about Jessica’s dream.
“Like” this on Facebook. Share it, then tweet it. Help spread the word. As a nation, we need to do this.
On a personal note – I held one of the small horses today and thought about other worlds in which I once lived. I remembered a little boy running through a village screaming after a bomb destroyed his family. I remembered a drunk father who beat his child senseless for absolutely no reason. I remembered my daughters when they were little, three precious babies, who I loved and protected.
Then I thought about where this little toy horse might end up, about the tears his mane will absorb, about the emotions that will be felt.
Jessica Rekos represents all of them – all twenty child who died that horrible day. but she represents even more. She represents every child who trembles in fear, every child who sees things no child should see. By doing this, it’s our adult way of saying, “The world is not a bad place. What is happening to you should not happen in a civilized society.”
That’s exactly what I say to the horses who pass through our gates every day.
“Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.” – Oscar Hammerstein