This month many of us are heading into a holiday season whether it be Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or another notable day. It is traditionally a time when we get together with family and friends, open our hearts, and put our absolute best foot forward in hospitality and grace. The pandemic has changed the physicality of our lives but not the meaning and intention that lies beneath this very special season.

The origin of the word season comes from the Latin word ‘satio’, meaning ‘sowing’ and later, ‘time of sowing.’ This is appropriate as we take stock of our own lives, planting seeds of goodwill, and are mindful of cultivating generosity, especially during this time. When we look outside ourselves many of us see the tremendous suffering and a desperate need for change. Life’s roadblocks, pitfalls, and challenges are our greatest teachers even when they happen to others, as they force us to pause, recalibrate, then spur us to action.

What can we learn from COVID-19? We are living in a world where the rules of day-to-day living are changing and life as we used to know it is becoming almost foreign to us. But there is one constant in life that never changes. This perpetual element is visibly abundant during the holiday season. It can help quell anxiety, give us inner peace, and help us determine a path forward in our brave new world that can change our lives for the better — love.  

But how can we choose love in the vicinity of this widespread illness? Let’s unpack it by using the formula for choosing love. First, we need COURAGE to be present and acknowledge our fear and discomfort, not resist or avoid it. It’s easy to be present when things are going our way, but more difficult when times are tough. The greatest fear for us all now is getting sick and dying. There, I’ve said it. We can progress past our fear when we face it and process it.

This is the mortality that we all share, although I’ve actually recognized and accepted this for a while now. I learned this very difficult lesson by sending my six-year-old son, Jesse, off to just another day of school one chilly December morning from which he never returned. I abruptly realized that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, thus, we must practice being present every moment we can and be GRATEFUL for the time we have. This isn’t being morbid, it’s a reminder to embrace daily micro moments of joy! Every minute you have with your loved ones, your children, your close friends, should spark this awareness. Hold their hands, look deeply into their eyes, and show your love, effusively. Because you can. What a gift!

Of course, I know relationships take work and sometimes require FORGIVENESS. I forgave the young man who murdered Jesse yet I continue to struggle with forgiveness within my own family. I know how difficult it can be. Yet as we courageously contemplate the totality of our existence, we also consider the nature of eternal regret, i.e., missed opportunities lost to us forever, especially when someone dies. This is a very real possibility now as COVID seemingly discriminates very little. Are you willing to risk it? The ultimate victim is you, the one who chooses to hang onto the pain, rather than release it. We seem to think there is a cost to forgiveness when in reality there is a lavish reward: Love. It’s so valuable there is no equal. Now, in this month representative of good tidings, is the perfect opportunity to reassess relationships that need mending.    

‘Tis the season for practicing COMPASSION-IN-ACTION. Compassion is when we have the bravery to look outside ourselves, first with empathy at those in need which then motivates and energizes us to action to do something to help. This begs the question, what if we practiced compassion-in-action every day, not just this time of year? What if we realize altogether, as I did following my son’s murder, that we are responsible for the safety of our world’s children, in addition to their parents. When one suffers, I see it as a collective failure and one that we must learn from, grow through, and correct the circumstance so it doesn’t happen again. It is our collective responsibility as human beings to advocate for each other and to find ways to alleviate one another’s pain and suffering. This will, in turn, create a ripple effect that will result in a safer, more peaceful and loving world. But it’s up to us. And it is simply a choice that we make every day.

COVID has given us the tremendous opportunity of time by forcing a pause on the busyness and distraction of our daily lives to contemplate what is broken within ourselves and our world. The question is, will we take responsibility and become determined to fix it, or are we chomping at the bit to get back to the way it was? We’ve been given the gift of awareness. Our eyes have been opened to exactly how precious, and even fleeting, life is. Today is not just another day. We must see it as an opportunity to hold and appreciate our loved ones and also valuable time to actually do something to help others. 

This holiday season is unique and not like any other we’ve ever had. Let’s use it wisely, nurturing ourselves to bolster our internal fortitude which will enable us to extend healing love to others.  Practice being present, even in difficulty, which enables you to thoughtfully respond with love. Love conquers fear and will enable us to create the world we want to live in, one where every one of us CHOOSES LOVE, and children learn and grow in safety, with confidence and peace.     


  • Scarlett Lewis

    Chief Movement Officer

    Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement

    Scarlett Lewis founded the nonprofit Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement after her son was murdered during the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy in December 2012. Shortly after his death, Scarlett decided to be part of the solution to the issues that we're seeing in our society -- and that also caused the tragedy -- and turned it into an opportunity to build a culture of love, resilience, and forgiveness into our communities at a time when it is needed the most. Scarlett created Choose Love and became an advocate for social and emotional learning (SEL) and character development that teaches children how to manage their emotions, feel connected, and have healthy, meaningful relationships. Choose Love is a no cost, comprehensive, lifespan, next generation SEL character development program that teaches children and adults how to thoughtfully respond with love in any situation by using the Choose Love Formula (Courage + Gratitude + Forgiveness + Compassion-in-Action), and teaches children how to handle adversity, have courageous conversations, and to respond with love. Choose Love has been downloaded in all 50 states and 100 countries, reaching over 1.9 million children.  Choose Love extends beyond the classroom through additional no cost programs, including Choose Love at Home, Choose Love for Communities, and Champions Choose Love for young athletes. In direct response to COVID-19, Choose Love created numerous free resources to help children and adults deal with the stress and anxiety of this uncertain time.  Also, to help support educators and students as they navigate the start of the 2020-2021 school year, Choose Love created a free social-emotional wellness program, “Choosing Love in Our Brave New World.” This re-entry unit was designed to help transition students back to a new normal of education whether it’s in class or distance learning with particular awareness of the current events and environment, and fosters the development of a growth mindset and perseverance. Lessons incorporate trauma-sensitive, healing-centered language and practices which are based on the latest neuroscience and post-traumatic growth research. Scarlett has traveled extensively throughout the United States to share her inspiring and empowering story and her far-reaching programs. Currently, she is conducting numerous virtual presentations to spread her mission. Scarlett has spoken at multiple national conferences including National Forum on Character; SXSW EDU; ASCD Empower; Music City SEL conference in Nashville; and presented at the TedX Fayetteville. Scarlett and the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement has been featured in the New York Times; BBC; Fox News; CBS News; Today Show; The Guardian; and many regional papers and has been featured in high-profile magazines, including Fortune; Strive; and the Huffington Post. She has a podcast speaking about the character traits that comprise the Choose Love Formula and how the formula can be used in any circumstance to promote self-empowerment; resilience, connection; and optimism. Scarlett is also a frequent contributor to other podcasts. Visit