I love reading stories about victory! It seems we all have had something in our lives to overcome, to some degree, and learning and growing from the struggle can benefit others. 

Courage and perseverance are two of the most powerful ways that can be taught to get through and grow from difficulties, and sometimes the best way is by example. However, one thing is for certain — we need each other. It has been fascinating to me to witness how we rise to the occasion for one another, even complete strangers, during times of hardship and then seemingly retreat to status quo. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could always be as compassionate as we have the capacity to be?

I was incredulous of the generosity of spirit and compassion following the Sandy Hook tragedy. The post office had to reroute the mail as the Newtown site wasn’t able to process the quantity of condolence letters coming in. Warehouses were filled with gifts: teddy bears, homemade angels, handmade quilts, prayer shawls. The neighboring abandoned elementary school that was refurbished for the displaced Sandy Hook elementary students mentioned in one online post that they would like to decorate their new school with snowflakes. Shortly thereafter they received tractor trailer truckloads, literally. Our collective hearts were broken and everyone responded in compassion.

As a parent of one of the victims, I was also one of the recipients of that love and I am forever grateful. That incredibly beautiful and loving response fits with one of the life lessons I’ve learned through my loss — one of the deepest connections we have is through pain. Anyone who has heard me speak or uses the Choose Love program knows that we are all connected as humans in the want and need to love and be loved. We are also connected through pain. We all feel this in some way during our lives, physically, mentally, and emotionally. In this vulnerable place we understand, beyond words, that we are one. There is an inherent ache that we feel for one another when we witness another’s suffering. Somewhere inside we understand that we are all in this together and we are only as strong as our collective.

The world chose love on December 14, 2012 and rose to the occasion after one of the worst mass murders in U.S. history.  Regardless of where I traveled to spread Jesse’s message of “Nurturing Healing Love” people remembered where they were when they received the news. Because of this outpouring of kindness, concern, and generosity of heart, I know what is possible! How can we galvanize that thoughtful response of ‘choosing love’ going forward? For ourselves, our environment, and for each other? 

First, we look at what is possible in our own lives. We know mental and emotional health are the most important factors in our children, and ourselves, as well as our communities. This is a priority as it translates into safety and peace. We can’t be there for one another if we are not taking care of ourselves and we don’t feel safe.

We must make sure our children are given the essential life tools to flourish and be their best selves toward others. Children with healthy brain development, secure attachments to their parents, who are nurtured at home and in school, and who feel good about themselves are able to identify and be compassionate toward others. We can facilitate this at home by modeling it ourselves, validating difficult emotions, and sharing stories. In this increasingly distracted world there is still plenty of time to be present with our most precious assets, our children.

Then, we make sure our schools, homes, and communities are making compassion a priority. Empathy and compassion can be taught at home and in school and it needs to be  modeled within our communities, as well. In schools that have incorporated the Choose Love Movement, children will be coming home with projects related to love, gratitude, forgiveness, and equity. Communities will be highlighting their efforts to promote kindness and caring through events and activities that focus on the wellness of their citizens. We know what’s possible, and we all want to live in a world that chooses love!

The world continues its evolution through a global pandemic, social unrest,  and an uncertain future, and this is the time we must come together and bond through our shared humanity and find our strength to look toward what is possible. Tragedies can be prevented, and troubling times can be traversed with the right mindset. The seas of change can be stormy, and to navigate the many issues that arise in life requires not only social and emotional intelligence but making sure our children have the necessary life skills to thrive and encouraging communities to be more compassionate, understanding, and open-minded.  During these changing times, are we resisting the world around us in fear or embracing each other with love? Ultimately it is a choice to accept our shared humanity. What is possible? We can face life and all that it encompasses with a commitment toward choosing love, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion.  It is then that we live up to our potential and find fulfillment in our existence.  


  • 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 www.ChooseLoveMovement.org.