We called my son Daniel "the custodian of all living things." He would pick up ants from the kitchen carry them outside to reconnect them with their families. He'd pick up worms from the driveway and rescue them from the sun. If he saw a classmate sitting alone or having a bad day, he was compelled to go comfort that person. He had a way of noticing if someone --- or something -- was vulnerable. He had to be there to take care of them.
For Daniel this always started with conversation. Nations have been built and dismantled with dialogue. Wars can be launched or ended with words.
But what about the pedantic, everyday discourse? What we consider banal, routine banter can have big time impact. The utterance of a single sentence can literally change someone's life.
Consider these six words: "Would you like to join us?"
Daniel, even though he was seven, knew how to listen. Daniel possessed an innate knowledge of the power of conversation and was comfortable engaging in dialogue with contemporaries as well as adults.
Conversations have brought about unlikely friendships. My wife Jackie and I met a lifetime member of the NRA who was convinced his Constitutional right to bear arms was in peril with the proposed legislation that would close that background check loophole. My wife asked him: "Would you like to join us ... for a cup of coffee?"
The three of us sat and had a good, long talk. We told him about our children; he was a father of three, and we congratulated him for recently becoming a grandfather. We listened intently as he extoled his history of growing up a hunter/sportsman and how guns were woven into the fabric of his family traditions for generations.
Imagine what we can accomplish if we check our agenda at the door and just sit down and talk. Let's find the common ground and focus on what we do agree on.
Our sweet, little Daniel was fortunate that he enjoyed talking with people. Initiating dialogue with someone doesn't come naturally to many of us -- it's a skill we need to develop with practice. But isn't it worth it? The young man that stormed Sandy Hook School that cold December morning last year was the kid that sat alone at the lunch table. I can't help but wonder if someone, anyone, had gone over to him and asked: "Would you like to join us?"
I choose to honor Daniel's life by sharing his love and his joy with everyone I can.
I promise to parent together to build communities that are healthy and safe and better for children everywhere. Now I'm asking you to join us. Go to www.sandyhookpromise.org and Make the Promise to Parent Together. Do it now to join our conversation.