After the Jan. 8 tragedy here, my husband Michael and I, just like parents all over the city, have explained the news to our children and answered their questions.
We tried to find a balance between giving them information and limiting their exposure to the news. We checked the Internet for updates and watched the news on TV when the boys were occupied or after they went to bed. The Arizona Daily Star, however, sat on our counter, as it does every day, and the large headlines in the days after the tragedy caught the attention of our 7-year-old, Preston.
Preston and I were looking at the front page together one day when he turned to me and said, "Mommy, there was just one guy who was the shooter, but there were so many people who were heroes."
As our sons have grown, my husband and I have encouraged them to view the world as a good place. Be friendly. Look for the best in people. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
After the senseless violence, Preston was trying to affirm that the world is still good. There was one "bad guy," but the number of people at Safeway that morning who did the right thing and helped others was far greater.
Two books that Preston recently read undoubtedly influenced his thoughts, too. One of those is "Heroes for My Son" by Brad Meltzer. The book highlights 52 people the author deems heroic. Some are obvious - Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi and Harriet Tubman. Others are not so well-known, like Officer Frank Shankwitz, who co-founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Norman Borlaug, who worked with farmers all over the world to greatly increase crop production and save people from starvation.
The second book is "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters," written by President Obama. Thirteen Americans are highlighted, each linked to an admirable characteristic. Jane Addams is featured for her kindness, Cesar Chavez for his inspiration and Jackie Robinson for his courage.
Preston really enjoyed reading about the heroes in those books. And whether he is aware of it or not, in the aftermath of the shooting, he took some solace in reading about the heroes of our community.
On the morning of Jan. 8, in front of a grocery store, ordinary people did extraordinary things. They were selfless, brave and loving. Tucson is a community of many heroes -enough to fill a book.
E-mail Kelley Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org