Choosing Love with Guest Scarlett Lewis

This week the Mental Health Mamas are honored to be joined by Scarlett Lewis founder of the non-profit Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement. Scarlett?s son, Jesse, was murdered during the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December of 2012. Shortly after his death, Scarlett decided to be part of the solution to the issues that we're seeing in our society and turned it into an opportunity to build a culture of love, resilience, forgiveness, and connection in our communities at a time when it is needed the most. Tune in to hear Scarlett talk about all of the free resources available at and how she continues to have hope despite the school shootings that continue to happen across our country.

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Tina: Hey everyone, I'm Tina

Serena: And I'm Serena, and we are the Mental Health Mamas.


Tina: Welcome to No Need to Explain. We are so glad you're here. 

Serena: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.

Tina: We come to you not as mental health professionals or experts in the fields, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health. 

Serena: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You'll find a variety of resources in our show notes, and on our website, 

Tina: Hope is a major part of the work that Serena and I have done over the years with individuals like ourselves, as well as on a broader level. We believe that hope is a verb and that it takes work, but it's always there. Today, we are so fortunate to be joined by someone who embodies hope in every sense of the word.

Serena: Scarlett Lewis founded the nonprofit, Jesse Lewis, Choose Love Movement, when her son, Jesse, who was murdered during the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December of 2012. Shortly after his death, Scarlett decided to be part of the solution to the issues that we're seeing in our society that also caused the tragedy and turned it into an opportunity to build a culture of love, resilience, forgiveness, and connection in our communities at a time when it is needed the most. Since the tragedy, Scarlett has spoken across the US and internationally to diverse audiences sharing her empowering story and the organization's far reaching programs, urging everyone to become part of the solution to the issues the world is facing. Scarlett, welcome to the podcast. 

Scarlett: Thank you so much for having me, Serena and Tina. I'm really excited to be here. 

Tina: We too are super excited. We?d love for you to start by telling us a little about your Jesse. 

Scarlett: Yes, absolutely. Jesse was just absolutely a light. It's interesting. I liked to introduce him saying that he was born 11 pounds. So the first time I saw him and walked up to the nursery and all the nurses were gathered around taking pictures. So I walk up behind them and I say, what are you taking pictures of? And they said, there's this enormous baby who's trying to crawl out of his bassinet. And literally like less than 24 hours, he's crawled down somehow, you know, moved down to the end of this clear plastic bassinet. He tried to crawl out and then just was crumpled at the base of it, exhausted. And you know, when you have an 11 pound baby next to like a regular six or seven pounder, it's like, that?s a big baby. So that's how he was. He was even really larger than life full of energy, full of light, just really, really a huge loss for not only our family, but the world. 

Serena: So talk a little bit about the origin of the Jesse Choose Love Movement. Tell us how this movement grew out of this tragic loss.

Scarlett: Absolutely. So, you know, I'm a mom who dropped her child off at school one day or, you know, as Jesse's dad says, dropped my child off with a book bag and picked him up in a body bag. And it's like, how does that happen? And why are our kids killing themselves and each other at incredibly high rates? I mean, you know, we recently had a six year old that brought a gun to school and shot his teacher in the stomach in Virginia. Like, why is this happening? 

And so I really took a different route than most after Sandy Hook. I took a step back and I, first of all, I watched everyone's reaction. And of course, it's anger and blame, right? But who do you blame when there is a school shooting? Well, who's responsible? You know, the school shooter is, you know, and people blamed his mom who gave him access to guns. But for me, that wasn't the full story because I thought, wait a minute. If they're really, you know, at fault and to blame and we, you know, great avenue to put all of our anger into, then it wouldn't have happened before. And it wouldn't happen again. But it's happened hundreds of times since. I mean, this is our normal now in America. We know that we just wait for the next one and we're not even surprised. I mean, even this six year old shooting his teacher was kind of like taking it to another level, but that's the level where it is now. 

And so I, you know, I thought it's, that's, no, that's not, that doesn't work for me because I actually felt compassion for the shooter, which, you know, wasn't a popular thing, still isn't. But I knew that, you know, hurt people, hurt people. And obviously, his life has included a lot of pain. And of course it came out that it absolutely did. He was isolated, neglected, abused, rejected, you know, all throughout his life. And so as most school shooters are, if you, if you, you know, look at their histories, I felt compassion for him. And so I thought, you know what, unless we see the humanity in this situation, we are not going to get ahead of this. And, you know, so much of the focus has been on the attack end of the pathway to violence used by the Department of Homeland Security. 

How does school shootings happen? They start with the grievance, usually. And then they stair step up into an attack. And it's the same thing that, you know, I said at Jesse's funeral. Um, I said this whole tragedy started with an angry thought in Adam Lanza's head. At some point, I pictured him as a little boy having an angry thought without the skills, tools or nurturing environment to manage that thought. And you can exchange thought for pain and hurt. And because we all share as human beings, the want and need to love and be loved, love is connection when we don't have it, we suffer and we also feel pain.

And we need to give our kids the skills and tools they need to manage that pain. And in fact, grow through it instead of being taken down by it and taking others as well. So I asked everybody, at Jesse's funeral, think about what you think about, change one angry thought into a loving thought by doing this. You'll make yourself feel better. Loving thoughts feel good, angry, hateful, resentful thoughts, feel bad. And that is reflected in how you show up in your relationships and your behavior. So everyone went out to the four corners. They did that. They started emailing me, texting me, calling me, saying that one simple act had completely changed their lives. And I knew that I was on to something that that's the foundation of the Choose Love movement. Pretty elemental, right? But very, very important that we focus every single day on this ability we have as humans because we have a prefrontal cortex and logic and reasoning to be able to choose in every situation how we thoughtfully respond that way we have control. And we make things happen instead of being victims. And I saw Adam Lanza as a victim as well. 

So really it was my son, Jesse, that is the foundation, obviously, of the Choose Love Movement, but a message that he left on our kitchen chalkboard. After his murder, I came back to my house and I found three words that he had written shortly before he died, nurturing healing love. Now, those three words phonetically spelled, he was in first grade and just learning how to write. But I thought, wow, if the shooter had been able to give and receive nurturing healing love, the tragedy would never have happened. And so I thought, wow, this is the solution. 

So I asked a doctoral professor, how do I get this to be a focus in schools? And he said, it's called social emotional learning, and he sent me a link. Now, I had never heard of that before. And so I started doing research, and I realized very quickly that at 44 years old, I did not have these skills and tools. So that means I didn't learn them at home. My parents are great, you know, but they didn't have them to teach me. I didn't learn them at school. I didn't learn them in a whole career, multiple careers of working full time and being my boy's support as a single mom. So I'm 44 years old. I know I can't give what I don't have as a parent. I loved my kids, but I didn't have these unique skills and tools. And so I went, where do you go? 

I went to the curriculum director actually at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And I said, I was breathless. I said, this would have saved my son's life. I said, Debbie, have you ever heard of it? And she said, of course, I have. And I said, well, what's, you know, like what happened? And she said, well, we spent a tremendous amount of money on a program. We didn't have enough money to train all the teachers. So we sent a small contingent out to get trained. They were supposed to come back, train the trainer. It never happened. And so the program never got out of the box. And kind of as a, as a, I don't know what I don't even know what the word would be. It's like still in the box. I shared where I store my Choose Love store stuff. 

But anyway, so, so I'm like, okay, every child deserves access to this. This is what a pathway to flourishing looks like. And so I said, I need to, I need to create a program that will enable kids to have access to this. It has to be free. And, and because it would have saved my son's life, it would have saved the shooters life. So I went about, I had, oh my gosh, I had so many incredible people from so many different professional fields help with this. And we created a totally unique program in its class, its lifespan. And for every age level, and totally free. And I literally created it as I called it a gap filler, literally like, like, you know, schools that that obviously most schools would have this. And it would be embraced. And, you know, but, but for those that can't afford it like Sandy Hook Elementary School, I need to provide this. So come to find out a few years later that less than 10% of US schools were teaching social emotional learning in the way, you know, embracing it in a way that it needs to be taught. And so I thought, wow, this isn't just a gap filler. This is one of the major programs that are out there. And in fact, it is one of the most taught SEL programs in several states. 

So I, um, you know, I just, I've spent the last 10 years, I literally quit my job at the time. And it took a lot of courage because I was a single mom, you know, completely responsible for, for all the bills. And I started Choose Love with the intention of dedicating my life to the safety, health and wellbeing of our children. And so this is what I've been doing literally 24/7. It's all I think about, all I talk about. Um, it is, is this this concept of addressing the grievance end of that pathway to violence. I'm bringing it all around now. So in other words, remember the pathway to violence starts with the grievance ends in an attack. We are wired to be reactive and to focus on the negative. We know this through neuroscience. And so we focused on the attack end. So we've created a whole a billion dollar industry around active shooter drills, hardening schools, this and that. And I'm not saying that's not important. It is important, unfortunately. But as equally as important and so much overlooked is this grievance end of the pathway to violence. So if we give, teach our children essential life skills that can help them manage the hurt and pain that they feel. In other words, the grievance, manage it within themselves as well as each other, then that grievance wouldn't escalate into an attack. And then here's another incredible thing about doing this proactive preventative approach. If you can get a school culture, so the culture precedes the grievance, right? If you have a school culture that is loving, connected, that embraces these essential life skills and lives them and the educators model them and teach the students through their own actions, then you can reduce and you can proceed and reduce, reduce and prevent a grievance from even happening. And and if one does, then you've got the, the kids and the educators, by the way, that have the skills and tools to manage that grievance.

That's why the Choose Love Movement actually is designed for kids and educators. The educators learn right alongside the kids and practice because here's the thing. We know that, you know, ideally, Serena and Tina, this should be taught at home. And that's true. You know, in parents say that, wait a minute, schools are for academics and homes are for social emotional learning. But here's the thing. And and I'm, I'm a parent that that, oh my gosh, I just love my kids. I was a single parent, you know, that like my life was my kids. But I wasn't socially emotionally intelligent. Now, I mean, I have a college degree. Okay. Good parents, you know, was raised, you know, well, and then I worked my entire life in different interesting industries, but I never learned social emotional intelligence. So that means I never really learned how to have a healthy relationship, how to manage my emotions, how to make responsible decisions until I was 44 years old. And I was searching for a solution to what happened to my six-year-old son. And I found it and I've dedicated my life to spread it. And that's why I'm here with you all today. 

Tina: Mm-hmm. So I love this. So my son?s a firefighter, so I often use this and even before he was a firefighter, I still use this analogy, right? We spend a lot of resources in schools. And believe me, I've been in schools, school?s a hard place to be from administration to small person, right? Like it's a whole gamut. But I do think we spend a lot of resources on putting out fires when what we should really be spending money on is fire prevention, right? So that the fires don't happen. 

Scarlett: And I mean, interesting that you mentioned that. First of all, can I just, can I say something? First of all, JT, my older son, he loved firefighters. And I just have to tell a little story. He had boots, you know, the firefighter boots. And then he had pants with suspenders like firefighters. And every night, he would pull the pants down over the boots when he put it on. So that he could be ready. And then one morning, it actually occurred that I put bacon on the stove. And we had some bunnies born. And so we were all out looking at the bunnies and the fire alarm went off. And so the house filled with smoke, flames leaping up off of the stove. And the firefighters come, you know, our superhero firefighters, they come in thankfully, you know, that they put the fire out and they got all the smoke out. But JT runs in and gets his change that he's been saving. And he has a few dollar bills too and he goes up to one of them. And he says here, I want to give you this so that you guys can get coffee. Thank you for helping with that. Just so cute. I wanted to share that. All right. 

Tina: That's adorable. That's so adorable. 

Scarlett: And I had to share that because it came to mind. But anyway, if you're using the firefighter analogy, so yes, we have to put out fires, you know, absolutely. And they're burning all day long. In fact, they've never been higher with substance abuse, mental illness and violence. But at the same time, and this is what I've been advocating for a quarter of our resources. I would like to say half, but I've tried to be conservative a quarter of our resources. That means time, energy, and money to be addressing the proactive, preventative piece. Because if we don't address the root cause of the suffering by the way that leads to those issues, we will never get ahead of this issue. We'll continue to see it getting worse. So that's addressing the root cause of the issues. And like, you know, I just did a podcast with a first responder. We were sitting outside of a school where we were doing a Choose Love bus tour stop. And he says, he says to me, you know, that at least half of the cost or a great deal of the cost of building a new school and any building is is fire prevention. And he says, because of that, and he goes and think about it, like so much money goes into preventive, like helping kids if there's a fire or stop drop and roll and all of this. And even this building of structure, any structure, but you know, schools, we were talking about a lot of the cost is fire prevention. And so we know that for fires. This was his point. Why don't we do that for schools shootings? 

Tina: Right. Okay. That's right. And I would add one thing. I think Serena and I've done family support for, I don't know, 10 years. And I think in schools, we focus so much on what is measurable and the outcome of whatever's going on. Right. And that that supporting the foundation, we always supported the foundation, the family. And I think you're saying the same thing. Right. We are, we are supporting the foundation are our thoughts and feelings and the love and compassion we have for each other, which is not something that is immediately measurable. So it's hard. I just think it's a hard, we definitely need to make a shift in our world. And you are helping to do that. 

Scarlett: Well, I think with Choose Love, we're trying to move us back to humanity, focusing there first being present. There were, you know, it's interesting, there's so much fear within the schools when JT was going back into middle school, like, and when he graduated, he graduated early from high school because he said, nobody cares about me. And I mean, that was just what, you know, I was like, oh my gosh, how can you say that? You know, like teachers, like every week, we have a meeting and, you know, I don't understand why you say that. And Diane Gray, who's the president of the Elizabeth Kubler Ross Foundation and, and the author of our healthy grieving program, she, she and Elizabeth Kubler Ross was the founder of Brief Therapy. She, she said, I know exactly why he's saying they don't care about him because nobody's had the courage to address his grief. And so when I asked him, he said, yeah, nobody's ever said Jesse's name. Yeah, I sit in, in the classroom and the teachers talk about the tragedy, but without the understanding that, you know, I'm a victim sibling, and there weren't that many in the school. And, and he, he said, you know, was that, and when I asked the teachers, they care, you know, but it was fear. It was like, oh, we didn't want to remind him. Um, we didn't want to make him sad. He seemed like he was having a good day. I didn't want to ask him how he was doing. Here's the big one. What if I asked him how he's doing and he said he wasn't okay. I don't have the professional skills and tools I need to help him. And it's like, then I realized, wow, we need to get the awareness out that it's not about professional skills and tools. It's about having the courage to be present with one another and meet the other person where they are, see the humanity within them. And this is, so this is, you know, part of the focus of the

Choose Love Movement is really to bring the humanity back to see that spark of humanity in everyone. And by the way, I'm also talking about in those kids who are struggling, who have behavior issues because what are behavior issues? Simply an expression of what they're feeling, right? I mean, you know, and so unless they're taught social, emotional intelligence, then they can talk about how they feel, then they even know what they're feeling. And then they can start to manage what they're feeling. Otherwise, you know, it's just an expression through our behavior. And by the way, this has nothing to do with little kids or big kids. This is a human thing. It's all of us. I mean, look at the paper. You see big kids expressing their feelings in their behavior and unable to manage their emotions. These are such incredibly important skills. They've changed my life dramatically, 180 degrees when I learned them. But here's the kicker. It's like we know that they have to be even a best case scenario. They're taught at home, right? And they practice them and the kids know them. We know they have to be reinforced in school. And it is something that needs to be practiced. And by the way, some kids like my kids, the first time they would be getting this is in school because I didn't have the skills and tools to give them. And so it's you want the kids, by the way, to be learning this, even if you know you're doing a great job as a parent, you're sending your kids to school. You want all kids to be practicing these skills and tools. It is what will reduce and prevent school shootings, the suffering that leads to school shootings, that leads to addiction, that leads to most mental illnesses. We can reduce and prevent them. Look, we know that over 90% of doctors visits are related to stress. And where is the majority of stress? I mean, it's in our head. It's how we perceive a situation, correct? It's like, oh my God, this is so stressful. Unless it's a threat, it's a eustress. It's a challenge, right? So, so we have to learn how to manage these things in our own lives. And trust me, life is this beautiful thing that gives us the opportunity to practice our social emotional intelligence every single day all day long. 

Serena: Yeah, I really appreciate everything you're saying. And I really do think it's the, it's the solution, right? I mean, it's what has drawn me to the Choose Love Movement, this idea that we continue responding in fear and anger that yeah, it doesn't, it doesn't work,

Scarlett: but well, and anger is based on fear, right? 

Serena: Right. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, let's shift a little bit to, to the idea of hope. So, as we mentioned in the intro, Tina and I are all about hope, even when things seem hopeless. And that being said, it really is hard to imagine remaining hopeful in the face of such a tragedy. And they continue to happen, like you mentioned, right? It's just, it's become our normal. So, tell us how you personally maintain that sense of hope.

Scarlett: Absolutely. And that's a great question. I remember I was at a high school in New Hampshire and when I walked out, there was a news crew that met me in the parking lot and it was the day after Uvalde. And Uvalde was a shooting in an elementary school in Texas almost 10 years after Sandy Hook, it was almost a carbon copy. And so that was very devastating to the nation because it showed that what we're doing isn't working, right? And, and all the focus on the attack end, right? And there has, there's a billion dollar industry around the attack end and it's important, but it shows that it's not the full solution. And so the news crew met me out there and they asked me, basically they said to me, you must be completely hopeless at this point. You know, it's been almost 10 years and to see something like Sandy Hook happen again, you must be hopeless. And I said, I'm actually filled with hope. And here's why because I'm walking out of a school auditorium where 1600 high schoolers just gave me the Choose Love wave. And even further, it was students that brought me in to the school and a student run business that paid my fee to come into them because they wanted to understand the power of the Choose Love Movement and how they could incorporate the Choose Love Formula into their lives. That is what gives me tremendous hope. And what gives me hope is the fact that the Choose Love Movement continues to grow, that people find out about it and that they want to be a part of it. They want this in their schools, homes and communities. And by word of mouth, this has now spread to every single state over 10,000 schools and 120 countries and continues to grow. The Choose Love Movement, by the way, you know, that is incredible. I mean, I intentionally created the Choose Love Movement in a time of huge polarization. You know, so I really feel like the first time I noticed it was at Sandy Hook and then it's obviously grown since then. But I wanted to create a space where everyone, regardless of of any real or perceived differences and beliefs or anything else could come together in something that we all have in common. And that's love. 

Serena: Yeah. So can you talk a little bit about, so we've talked about, you know, it obviously is a very big curriculum. And you have a bazillion resources, which is amazing we?ll talk about that in a moment. But can you share some specifics on like what we can do as parents or community members or human beings, like how like what are some basic things that we can do to contribute to the prevention of future tragedies?

Scarlett: Yes, absolutely. And here's the thing. We know that the opposite of anxiety, the anxiety that everyone's feeling, however low the level in the back of their head about violence, right? And other things. The opposite of anxiety is positive action. Not on your cell phone, but actually getting up and doing something. And we've known that since the time of the philosophers all the way to cutting edge in our science, I'm going to say it again, because it's so important. The opposite of anxiety is positive action. And so that was a great question. And there's so many things that you can do. In fact, that's what Choose Love is all about are positive actions that you can take. And I mean, the first thing I would do is go to the website. If you're a parent and check out the parent program, I would sign up for our newsletter. We actually have a daily dose email. And so it's an email every day. It gives a little bit of inspiration. How schools, homes, communities are choosing love around the world. And then it gives you a little action item that you can take a really great quote. But it also has a calendar for each month. And our calendars, every single day have an action item that you can focus on with your family. So print out the calendar, put it on your fridge and focus on what the action item is. And if you have questions, you can go on. You can do our training thousands of people have taken our free training online. In fact, we're going to update it within a few months. But download the parent program, look through that, learn about these essential life skills so that you can incorporate them in your life. And even if you're thinking out there, oh, you know what, everything she's saying, I already know, but are you mindfully aware of it from the moment you wake up before you open your eyes? Are you ticking off gratitude? Are you saying, thank you for another day to serve? You know what I mean? Like, are you putting?are you able to put your best foot forward in every situation? Are you modeling choosing love for your kids every day, all day long? And by the way, nobody's perfect. But when, you know, have you wired your brain enough so that, you know, you're not addicted to worry and anxiety, you're addicted to my looking for micro moments of joy and feeling happiness, you know, so, so that when I don't choose love, it doesn't feel good. And I revert back to what I'm used to now, which is joy and happiness. It's available for everyone regardless of your situation. You can take the Choose Love Oath and that's a great way to print out and, you know, make it your family constitution that you guys work on together every day. You know, life is this beautiful thing that gives us the opportunity to practice these skills and tools every day. 

And you know, it does take some effort, but I'm telling you this that effort pays off in the moment and tremendously going forward with healthier relationships and healthy relationships is the key to happiness per Harvard University's longest ever study on human life. Like, all this is so important. Go to your schools, make sure they have a comprehensive social emotional learning program that's in place and practiced and embraced. You should be able to ask anyone in the school. Hey, do you have a essential life skills program? They should be able to say, yes, we do. This is what it is. This is when we teach it. This is how we teach it. Your child should have already come home and been talking about it, right? Because there has to be that school home connection, which Choose Love has. Let me tell you something. If they're like, oh, I don't know. Or yeah, we do, but it's not working well. Say, hey, check out the Choose Love Movement. It's free. It's no cost. And I did that because these are the skills and tools and awareness that we need to reduce and prevent the suffering that's leading to these issues that are going on in our society. And by the way, preventing us as adults also from living our best lives, living a life with no regrets. This is it. You know, this is it. I mean, I researched this. I had great people help me. And 10 years later, I am even more certain that this is the solution than ever before. And by the way, I mean, I've spoken at New York Times Deal book. I mean, I've spoken in so many different conferences to many professional groups. And I've said, if you have a better idea, raise your hand and I will get behind it. I just want to be part of the solution. My goal is to keep our kids safe and and focus on their health and well-being. Make that a priority. If you have a better idea, raise your hand. No one has ever raised their hand or come to talk to me about it later. Like this is it. And I'm just so excited to share it with you all and your audience. 

Tina: Yeah. So tell our audience how other than your website, which you said, how can they connect? What are your connection points? 

Scarlett: There are so many resources. I mean, the website is a big one, but I you know, everything's on our website. If you register, you have access to everything that we have. So take a look at it yourself. You know, I think transparency is a really important thing these days. And I've had parents say to me, you know, I've talked to the school, but you know, they're teaching my kids something, but I don't know exactly what it is. And this makes me uncomfortable. And I understand that, right? So we're 100% transparent. If you're a parent and you want to look through all of our stuff, it's all online. And you should be aware of what the school is teaching so that you can practice it and reinforce it at home. Everybody should be on the same page and focusing, you know, so on the same thing. And that's, you know, we're, that is what is so strong about love is that it unites. And that's, you know, fear divides us and we're stronger together. So we really, you know, in order to spread this message of nurturing healing love, we're going to have to come together to do this. And it is, you know, there's a lot I see when something like Sandy Hook or Uvalde happens, like there's all this blame finger pointing fault finding at our politicians and our leaders. But, you know, when are we going to realize that they're not going to be the ones to fix this? 

Honestly, I mean, let's let's put it this way. Come on, it's a hard truth. But if they could have, they would have, right? Nobody wants to see people suffer. Nobody wants our kids to be killing themselves and each other at exponential rates. It has to be us. We have to take responsibility. And we're going to get have to get back to humanity. We're going to have to move away from the blame game. You know, like this six year old that shot his teacher recently in Virginia, like who are we going to blame for that? Who are we going to blame for that? Who do we blame? Oh, well, it's the it's it was obviously the shooter?s fault and then obviously his parents. But come on, everyone, we have to take responsibility for what's going on with our kids. And here's the beautiful part of that, you know, when and this is what I learned after Sandy Hook, I had this interview and I was telling, it was like probably my first interview. My mom was standing next to me and I said, I take my part of the responsibility for what happened to Jesse and what happened in my backyard in my community. And so I hang up the phone and my mom goes, Oh my God, never say that again. It's not your responsibility. I don't even know why you would say that, you know, you just dropped your kid off at school. And I said, you know, here's the thing, unless I take my part of the responsibility, I can't be part of the solution. And I really wanted to lead a trend where people would raise their hand with me and say, yes, I take responsibility. I mean, I didn't see a lot of responsibility taken honestly within Sandy Hook about what happened. It was all kind of like, I wanted people to raise their hand and say, I could have done this. I could have done that, you know, we're going to research and this and that. And there weren't a lot of changes made afterwards, you know, you learn from your mistakes. And so this is what it's going to have to to to be like, we're going to have to take responsibility. And here's the thing, the minute you do that, you're in your power, you're in control, you are taking that action step forward. And it feels good because you are part of the solution. And every step forward, you take strengthens and motivate and inspires you to take that next step. And the more steps you take, it just feels better and more empowering. So I suggested everybody say, yeah, you know, what this is going on in my community. But more so in my world, we are all responsible for our kids.

You know, when I before the tragedy, I was like, my boys, my boys, you know what I mean? Like, I'm going to focus on my boys and the school can focus on the academics. I focus on, you know, what I need to focus on, I didn't realize that it has to be a coordinated effort. I didn't know, I didn't know anything that happened in the school. I was a single mom working full time. It was like, that's their responsibility. But what I didn't know is that even when I dropped my child off at the front door, his safety health and wellbeing is still my responsibility. And so we have to work together. 

Serena: Thank you for that. That shift. It really, yeah, it's very inspiring. I really appreciate your perspective. So before we bring the episode to a close, I wonder if there is anything we haven't asked you that you want to make sure you put out to the world.

Scarlett: Yeah, absolutely. Let me share the formula with everyone, with your followers, because it's a skill and tool that you can have in your belt right away that you can start to use that helps you to be able to thoughtfully respond to anything that comes along by choosing love and to remember that it's always a choice. You always have a choice. There is no real playbook out there for where you are in your life, what you're going through. You are completely unique in this world. So the upside to that is that you get to choose. It's exactly what I thought after the tragedy. I had a mom that had lost a son to violence. She came to me and said, you know, this is what it's going to look like. And I didn't want that future. And she did me a real favor because I said, okay, I'm going to have to choose what my future looks like. And I want to have a bright future. I want to have joy and focus on love. I don't want to spend the rest of my life fighting against something. I want to be for something. And I want to model this for my surviving son who was 12 years old at the time. So this formula is something that I use every day, all day long myself. And I come back to it in every single situation. 

It starts with courage. Courage is the most important character value because it's the one that underlies all the rest. Science tells us, and this is all science based by the way, that courage is like a muscle. We can practice it to strengthen it. And we need courage to do almost everything, even though we're not probably acknowledging it, courage to be kind when someone's not being kind to us. Courage to get in the present moment, in a conflict, get curious about what's going on with the other person and thoughtfully respond with love. Think about how much courage. And then of course, I always think about the courage that Jesse showed my son when he stood up to the shooter that came into his first grade classroom and saved nine of his classmates lives before losing his own. And you know, in the beginning, I thought, wow, if my first grade son can do that, then I certainly can quit my job and spend the rest of my life advocating for the safety health and well-being of our kids. And so we, but here's the thing, we all have that capacity for the courage that Jesse showed. And we do this by practicing. 

So the formula starts with courage, and then it slips right into gratitude. And there is so much research about having a gratitude practice. And everyone's like, yeah, I know, but do you do it? Because you can see the benefits right away. And they are exponential throughout your life. And you start, I mean, I tick off gratitude all day long. And it helps me control my state, you know, what my foundation that I'm working from is in every situation that comes up in my life, it helps me be resilient. So, but you need to be courage to be courage to be grateful when things in your life aren't working out. So you've got then this is a neuroscientific order, start by practicing courage. And you can download the program and to find out really easy ways to do that. And then you go into gratitude, have a, you know what, you have one life, start a gratitude practice because it will help you and it'll help your kids and your relationships. 

And then forgiveness. And you're like, Oh, all right, you lost me for forgiveness, but let me tell you something. There are decades of research that show the benefits of forgiveness to the forgiver. A lot of people, most people do not understand forgiveness. I didn't when I started. And there are such tremendous benefits, including elongating your life. And reducing anger. I mean, taking your personal power back, that is my definition of forgiveness, but it takes courage when the person who hurts you isn't sorry, doesn't care, or maybe doesn't even know. And, you know, we're almost all of us in some way are giving our personal power away to people that hurt us in the past, in the present. And you can choose to cut that cord that attaches you to pain. That's forgiveness, so important. 

And then compassion in action, having the courage to step outside of your busyness, distraction, even your own pain and suffering to help somebody else. Cause when we do that, we help and heal ourselves. That is something that no one talks about, but that is in the scientific research behind the benefits of compassion in action. This is how you choose love, courage, plus gratitude, plus forgiveness, plus compassion in action, equals choosing love. This is how I live my life. And it works. It has actually transformed and saved lives all around the world. And it's yours at no cost. All you have to do is commit to practicing it. 

Tina: Yeah, and go to the website. And that's awesome. 

Scarlett: Go to the website.

Tina: So all of what you've said today makes such sense to us as the Mental Health Mamas, we talk a lot about the fact that, you know, the difference between someone who is resilient and one who's not is one safe, stable, nurturing, caring relationship. And I think what your Choose Love Movement is doing is really helping people care about each other in ways that we often don't stop to do. So we appreciate Scarlett that you have brought this to our podcast today, that you've turned this immense pain into incredible purpose all around the world and kind of taken our power back, which is awesome. So thank you for taking time with us today and talking about the super important work and everything you're doing to make the world a better place.

Scarlett: Thank you Mental Health Mamas for what you all are putting out into the world. And for helping me spread Jesse's message of nurturing, healing love. 

Serena: Thanks, Scarlett. And so podcast friends, we are as always grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. We know you have a million choices out there. And we thank you for for spending a little time with us today. Help us out by visiting Apple podcasts. Leave us a review. Subscribe while you're there. You can find more content on our website. Connect with us on the socials or call us. We have a voicemail number call us and tell us what you think of the podcast. Share a but of your story or suggest a topic for a future episode or just call to say hi. 

Tina: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people. 

Serena: Thanks for listening.

Tina: Bye.