The most precious gift we enjoy at Christmas is children.
It's the children in our family, or maybe the excited children we enjoy seeing out and about during the busy holiday season, or perhaps it's our own childhood memories that make us smile. Even the Bible story of Christmas itself is wrapped around a child.
It's no wonder, then, that when the horrible tragedy of Dec. 14, 2012, struck at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., robbing us of 20 precious first-graders, it was a gut-punch and heart-sinker for us all.
A year later, it still hurts.
Opinion writers around the nation are marking the tragic anniversary with all kinds of arguments and observations, from the heated and non-resolved debate over gun control, to the call for leaving Newtown alone to grieve as a village that lost not just a child, but much of a generation.
All of those avenues are valid viewpoints worthy of note. The truth remains, however, that Christmas is more exciting when children and childhood memories are good ones and at the center of our holiday spirit. In that context, how do we remember the children of Sandy Hook in a good way?
It reminds me of how, as journalists, we worked to cover that story during those many long days and nights immediately surrounding the shock and sorrow that enveloped us all.
There were journalists who seemed eager to sensationalize a nightmare during a season meant for dreams, and there were those who could not finish a story without several attempts because of their own tears.
Among the tough assignments, how do you prepare a reporter to interview a family who just lost the biggest bundle of joy they had for celebrating Christmas? Only hours earlier, they may have had a 6-year-old promising to be good for Santa, and suddenly, the best time of year became the worst crisis of a lifetime.
You do it the way we all should do it today.
We must remember the joy every child brings into our lives and enjoy them in a way that remembers childhood past, the children around us today, and what we must do to protect the children of tomorrow. And the one thing every child does with laughter and smiles is to give this gift of wide-eyed excitement, giggling laughter and sincere curiosity without even thinking about it.
Live every day. Life is a gift, which is why we call it the present, someone wise once said.
What better way to enjoy the season, and to honor the better times from those beautiful lost children of Sandy Hook, than to stand up for just causes and to share of ourselves in good deeds with others?
We all miss those precious 20 first-graders and the joy they gave this world, which needs so much more of what only childhood innocence can give it. Let's not miss what we still have of that gift and youthful spirit.
Perform an act of kindness today. It can never remove the memory of Sandy Hook one year ago, but it might just create a new one that will last a lifetime for someone, and with that comes hope. Isn't that what we need for a brighter tomorrow?
Our children surely deserve it.
Troy Turner is the opinion editor for Digital First Media's national newsroom in New York. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.