“If we want a love message to be heard, it has to be sent out.
To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”
~Mother Teresa~

This Valentine’s Day is also the two month anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown, CT. On this day when we celebrate love, it seems fitting to honor those children and adults lost with an update on “The Twenty Promises Project”.

 If you have not read about it in my prior blogs, Beth Shaw, a school counselor in Willington, CT, suggested we each made a list of Twenty Promises, one for each of the children who died. This list would include our promises of kind actions, not just in our family or with our friends, but in the world at large. Click here to read some of Beth’s children’s promises. It is heartwarming to observe how many people came up with similar ideas. Even Anne Curry took to the airways with 26 Kindnesses.

So, here we are two months later. How are we doing? Are we following through? Or have the jagged edges of pain smoothed over in a way that diminished our fervor for the project?

 Below are the accounts of three teachers in Connecticut who have worked vigorously on their Twenty Promise Commitment. They were kind enough to share their stories of how this tragedy touched them and how they have committed themselves to action.

 From Harwinton

 1. I work with children. I try to say something positive every day to each of the children that I work with. Something specifically positive, so they know I not just throwing out “great job” in a half-hearted way. I look them in the eye and tell them one thing that is absolutely special about them.

 2. Make a concerted effort to say thank you to people who have made a difference in my life. For instance, writing a thank you letter to the guys who work on my car. Every time I bring it in, they put effort and pride in their work and tell me exactly what they had to do to the car. They need to know that the pride in their work counts and people notice.

 3. In that same vein, I’m pretty terrible about birthday and Valentine cards. I’m notoriously late. So instead, I am writing a letter a month to someone special in my life. Just a newsy little something, telling them I’m thinking of them.

 4. I’m not a cook. I can cook, but I don’t like to. I usually take the easy way out of dinners for someone who is out of work for an extended period of time – like brownies or salad. But this month I actually made the chicken chili for a co-worker. I didn’t even pawn it off on my husband. It felt pretty good.

 5. I bought a Dunkin Donuts coffee for the stranger behind me in the drive-thru. (This also felt pretty good.)

 6. Although I wrote a list of 20 specific promises, I find that it is a work in progress. What I am finding is that I’m more thoughtful about my interactions with people. This is not meant in an arrogant way at all, but I could be the best thing that has happened to a person all day(or the worst). It’s up to me to decide what kind of impact I want to have on someone’s day.

 From West Hartford

 I am an educator in West Hartford and teach 5th grade students. The recent tragic event at Sandy Hook Elementary School prompted me to take pause and reflect upon the many things I am grateful for in my life. I wrestled with many ideas regarding how best to discuss the event with my class and how to honor those who were the victims of this tragedy. Upon hearing of Beth Shaw’s 20 promises, I decided to bring this idea to my students. As the New Year was approaching, we are reminded of the many blessings that we share. In lieu of the usual New Year’s resolutions that we make, I decided to share the idea of writing down and committing to 20 promises, small acts of kindness, thinking that this would be a more powerful and fitting way to pay tribute to the victims of Newtown. My class loved the idea and without hesitation worked on a list of 20 promises for themselves. I, as the adult and teacher, added 6 more promises to my 20 to honor the adults who were also lost in this tragedy. The students then wrote their promises on 4 construction paper hands, one green, white, blue, and yellow to represent the children and colors of Newtown and the school. I have all of the promises of our 5th graders displayed on a bulletin board in the hall. The children are quickly fulfilling their 20 promises. Most are already writing down 20 more. Hopefully through continued conversation and fulfilling these acts of kindness, we can all help to make the world a better place and honorably remember those who were lost…We will never forget….



 From Burlington

Instead of homework over this holiday break, I asked all of my  High School students to find 26 kind things you can do for other people, to make someone’s day a little brighter or to help ease the burden that they may be experiencing.  It does not have to cost anything and it doesn’t require a lot of effort, but it will feel good and help to remember those children and adults who lost their lives.  I asked them to write them down and bring their list back to school on Wednesday, Jan 2nd.  What better way to celebrate the season and to do good for others!

What they did was remarkable and it reminded me that there is so much good out there in our youth. Some of my students do volunteer work regularly through their church, but it was so nice to hear what they did when we returned from break. From little things like holding doors for others to delivering groceries for people who can’t get out. Some students worked at soup kitchens and many helped their parents during the holiday gatherings they had. I had older students buy Dunkin Donuts for people they didn’t know.

My favorite part was watching students get the assignment and seeing their faces filled with kindness. I had them read it silently and I watched to see their reactions. All students participated and I’m so glad that I did this. I’m thinking that this will be my regular holiday assignment in memory of the children and adults of Sandy Hook – so much more meaningful than what I normally assign.


 Others have shared with me their acts of kindness inspired by the losses at Newtown. Most of us felt helpless in the wake of such a horrific event. These acts of kindness are a lesson in mindful action. It makes each of us responsible for making the world a better place.

Here are some additional stories people shared with me.

  • One person told me that right before Christmas, two children handed an elderly women in CVS a gift box containing a few dollars as a random gift. They said to her, “This is in memory of Newtown.”
  • Another told me of paying for a stranger’s dry cleaning.
  • Still another mentioned how she is mindful to let someone with only a few items go before her in the grocery line.
  • More than one person commented on working on their ‘road rage”.

Valentine’s Day is, of course, the day when we express our love to our significant others and tell them how important they are in our lives. Let’s be mindful that we can make every day Valentine’s Day when we act mindfully, gently, patiently and kindly. When we share appreciation, not only for those we love, but for everyone, we may, just maybe, be able to reduce future tragedies such as the Newtown shootings.


© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.


  1. cj golden on the 11. Feb, 2013 remarked #

    Beautiful. This blog. And you.

    • Donna Ferber on the 11. Feb, 2013 remarked #

      Thank you, but the credit does not go to me. It goes to all of those who are taking the kindness promise and moving forward in a mindful way.

  2. Jan on the 11. Feb, 2013 remarked #

    It is amazing how thankful — and often surprised — people are when you show a simple act of kindness. I regularly let people with only a few items go ahead of me when I am in a grocery line with more items. I have always done this, as this was something I saw my parents do regularly when I was growing up. People always say thanks, some very effusively. It is as if they are not used to such a simple courtesy being extended to them. What a sad commentary. Maybe the “20 Promises” will change some people’s habits for the better, and that will be some good to come out of such a tragedy.

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