Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." Dalai Lama

I have lived in Pittsburgh my entire life.  Pittsburgh is a giant melting pot,with neighborhoods like Squirrel Hill, Polish Hill and Bloomfield, aka "Little Italy".  The diverse peoples, cultures, ethnic traditions, and delicious foods are a huge part of the unique charm and beauty of Pittsburgh. We  are a city of contrasts, for example, we have many working class neighborhoods alongside a cultural district that includes a world class symphony. Although we are a city, people here know each other, and walking down 5th Avenue, a person might see 3 or 4 friends and acquaintances in a matter of blocks.  Pittsburgh is a very small town in the guise of a big city.

On Saturday, October 27, 2018, Pittsburgh was the site of the worst massacre of Jews in America.  What we thought could not happen here, happened here, in a diverse and beautiful neighborhood, just blocks from where Fred and Joanne Rogers made their home and raised their sons. An act of hatred, murder, and terror occurred in MR. ROGERS NEIGHBORHOOD - a place of welcome and inclusion.  All of Pittsburgh is heartsick. There is a pall over the city and its people - heightened by a dreary gray sky and cold rain showers. 11 murdered and 6 more injured.  Pictures and stories blare from the television and the extensive newspaper coverage. The faces of the victims have become so familiar that they now seem like lifelong friends. 

Like everyone else, I am crushed by this act of hate.  I lived in Squirrel Hill when I was in my 20's, and I loved the diverse and delicious neighborhood, with its unique array of characters, groups, and food.  I have been pondering one question since the shooting happened on Saturday: what makes a person so filled with hate that he can shoot and kill people in cold blood?  I have no answers - just more questions. Was it his upbringing?  Coming from a home filled with love, I am conflicted about how that could be possible, and how any parents could teach hate to their child.  Did he have mental health issues?  This seems likely, as we know that he was a loner with no friends or visitors, and a neighbor noted that the shooter had never raised the blind in his apartment. This leads us to assume that his life was filled with darkness. Does he have any family members?  None have stepped forward at this time, but even if he did, we don't know if he discussed his hatred with them. How did he get this way, when he was raised in Pittsburgh?  I don't know if we will ever know the answers to these questions. 

Pittsburghers are reacting with their unique generosity - giving blood for the victims, creating flower memorials, providing financial aid for the victims, holding vigils, holding moments of silence to honor victims before sporting events, and meeting and talking to each other - even strangers- in the street, The people of Pittsburgh will be forever scarred by this tragic act of hate, but we are the Steel City, and I believe we will become stronger and more united because of this event.

I was a high school English teacher for 37 years, and when terrible events happened, students often looked to their teachers for answers.  If I were in the classroom now, I think I would tell the kids that this is a very difficult time, and that although I wish it could be otherwise, no one is ever completely safe from people who want to do evil.  I would tell them it is a good thing to be aware of one's surroundings - not to be fearful - but to be aware. I would say that our world is not perfect, but it is still filled with beauty, and that by practicing kindness and compassion, each of us can make our part of the world more beautiful. I would whisper that the world can be a scary and confusing place, and that it is a good idea to seek solace in the love of their families and in the caring adults who guide them through their lives. If I were in the classroom right now, I would have the students write letters of consolation and hoe to the Tree of Life Synagogue (only if they wanted to-not as an assignment,)  I wrote my own letter on Sunday, hoping to provide solace for the friends I have not yet met, as well as solace for myself. 

The one truism I can share is this: The best way to combat hate is to practice kindness and compassion. I hope you will join me in this quest.  

Blessings to all at Tree of Life, the victims, their families and friends, the heroic first responders, and the doctors and nurses. #PittsburghStrong

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

Please invite Grady Gets Glasses (and me) into your school.  if you are not in the Pittsburgh area, we do virtual field trips with a group called Field Trip Zoom. www.Fieldtripzoom.com  GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit http://www.theauthorszone.com/submissions/  

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available  www.dederittman.com Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out!  http://www.fieldtripzoom.com/ 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at dederittman@gmail.com  The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. https://www.facebook.com/gradygetsglasses?ref=hl 

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