Positive Outreach
By Katie Allen Berlandi

"The Only Thing I Could Do Was Pray"

The word Newtown will forever ring with pain, heartache and disbelief to millions. I myself feel close to the tragedy because we live in a small Connecticut town only 20 minutes away.

A gentleman who was doing some work on our home that morning in December got a call from his wife: There had been a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. On went my television and there, for me, began the coverage of a tragedy unspeakable in its horror.

Soon the recorded call came, then the text, from our daughters’ school informing parents that the school was under lockdown. My husband is a volunteer firefighter and from the moment I learned of the shooting until late in the afternoon, I was unable to reach him. I imagined his crew being called to Sandy Hook as reserves. It turned out that he’d been tied up in meetings at the office and was as worried about the girls as I was. When our daughters arrived home from school, it was time for me to listen, to hug, to reassure, to offer age-appropriate explanations of the events at Sandy Hook.

Every bit of that day made no sense at all but one thing I felt I could do was be present as a parent in a way most comforting to my children. The only other thing I felt I could do was to pray.

Three days after the shooting, I was at the Reed Intermediate School in Newtown as part of a volunteer team of clinicians and therapists offering free crisis and grief counseling to members of the Newtown community. We therapists had different professional backgrounds and life experiences but a common purpose: to do whatever we could to comfort and support those most profoundly affected by the events of December 14, 2012.

Volunteers from Children’s Aid did art projects with Newtown children and gave out donated stuffed animals. The Connecticut chapter of the American Red Cross served food. All of us were there do to something, anything, for the Newtown community. What became clear was that those of us on the ground, joined by supporters around the world, could use the power of prayer to generate desperately needed strength and hope.

As I walked to my car at the end of my first day at Reed, I saw on the chain-link fence surrounding the school the word PRAY spelled out in red plastic cups, a reminder of the power that we all have.

Guideposts’ OurPrayer ministry comforts people like those grieving in Newtown through the power of prayer. OurPrayer gives millions of people an opportunity to receive prayer and offer prayer 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Volunteers pray for each request by name and need, whether it’s for an individual, a family or a community.

It’s fitting that the tagline for OurPrayer is “reaching out... lifting up.” Prayer gives us the chance to reach out beyond ourselves by lifting up in faith those in need. It nourishes the people we pray for, and it deepens our sense of connection and purpose. Powerful indeed.

Katheryn (Katie) Allen Berlandi is the seventh of Guideposts cofounders Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Ruth Stafford Peale’s eight grandchildren. She is a clinical social worker with a private practice focusing on children, adolescents and families, and a consultant for Guideposts and the Guideposts Foundation. Katie lives in a small town in Connecticut with her husband, two daughters and son.