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Newtown Connections In A Hawaiian Classroom

Elizabeth O’Brien, a former Newtown resident who now lives and works in Hawaii, received an e-mail from a co-worker on Tuesday, November 19.

The coworker had attended a conference over the previous weekend, and met Scarlett Lewis — the mother of Jesse Lewis, one of the 12/14 victims. Ms Lewis recently published a book, Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope & Forgiveness based on “an unexpected journey, inspired by a simple three-word message he had scrawled on their kitchen chalkboard shortly before he died: Norurting Helin Love (Nurturing Healing Love),” a description for the book reads.

Ms O’Brien’s co-worker and Ms Lewis had both spoken at the conference, and, as Ms O’Brien learned, Ms Lewis agreed to visit Kahalu’u Elementary School.

“Without knowing I was from Newtown, she asked [Ms Lewis] if she would come to Kahalu’u and speak to our students about nurturing, healing and love, the premise of her new book and new philosophy on life,” Ms O’Brien wrote in an e-mail to The Newtown Bee.

Ms O’Brien said she moved to Newtown five years ago with her family. She never attended school in Newtown, but she does have a younger brother currently attending Newtown High School. After graduating from Marist College in May, Ms O’Brien accepted a special education teaching position at Kahalu’u Elementary School. She moved to Hawaii in July.

“I was floored when I learned that she was going to come to our school to speak,” said Ms O’Brien. “I had planned on teaching my students about what happened on [12/14], but more importantly about what happened after that day. The love that came from around the world was tremendous and incredible, and I wanted to share it with my students so that they could pass on their own love to people who need it. [Ms Lewis] coming was the perfect way to jump start this.”

The concept of choosing love, Ms O’Brien said, has inspired her in her career.

“[Ms Lewis] came and talked amazingly to third through sixth grade,” said Ms O’Brien. “The students listened wide-eyed and took notes in their journals. After the speakers had finished, they walked around the school, stopping in each of the classrooms. When they got to the sixth grade classroom, the students were prepared with ukuleles in hand to play them the Kahalu’u Elementary School song called 5 R’s (Respect, Responsibility, Resourcefulness, Relationships, Resiliency), which is also our school’s policy. Then, a few students shared what they had written about what they learned from [Ms Lewis’s] speech. It was inspiring, moving, and beyond amazing.”

During Ms Lewis’s visit, Ms O’Brien said she was speechless and pleased to have her visit Kahalu’u Elementary School. 

“The world is truly connected, even from the farthest parts of our country,” said Ms O’Brien.

Ms Lewis also signed a copy of her book for Ms O’Brien during her stay, and each grade level at the school also received a copy.

“The sixth grade students have now decided to participate in 26 Acts of Kindness each day until December 14,” said Ms O’Brien. “When the students complete an act of kindness they write down what it was on a piece of paper and then it is be posted on a bulletin board, so by the end of the 26 days it will be filled with acts of kindness.”

Ms Lewis’s book, Nurturing Healing Love, is available on Amazon.com for $12.62 for hardcover and $9.99 on Kindle.

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