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Southern Oregon cherry blossoms. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Cherry blossoms, Southern Oregon. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

I’m bouncing with optimism because it’s spring.

Maybe it’s the cherry blossoms filling our streets, or maybe it’s the passion of volunteers in our community, but I’m heartened by American optimism this season.

And if you caught the livestream of Michael Moore’s town hall meeting in New York last night, you might share my enthusiasm for the groundswell of support for better control of weapons of war in our neighborhoods.

One million Americans have signed petitions demanding tougher gun laws, in the wake of the shooting murders of 20 children, their teachers, principal and school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

That gives me hope.

Listening last night to Americans whose families have suffered gun violence also gave me hope, because they spoke about collective, positive action after tragedy, to prevent other families enduring such loss.

It gave me hope to hear them say, “Enough!

I’m especially hopeful that more Americans will stand up to gun manufacturers and the NRA, after learning more about the lobbying efforts of mothers. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is pressuring Congress, and is urging all of us to contact our senators and representatives to speak up on better gun laws.

I’m more hopeful about Congress listening to real voters, after being dismayed last week when Senate Leader Harry Reid dropped an assault weapons ban from a pending gun control bill. This, despite polls showing a majority of Americans want assault weapons off our streets.

I’m more optimistic about full background checks and other restrictions being approved after learning that “landmark” gun control laws have passed in Colorado, a state that knows too well the pain from such violence.

Perhaps the most encouraging voice I heard last night was that of Lori Haas, yet another mother pained by gun violence. Her daughter, Emily, was shot twice in the head during the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and called 911 while others were being shot and killed.

Like the Newtown mothers, Haas was driven to take action. She became the Virginia organizer for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, to help reduce the spread of this contagion in American culture.

“It’s atrocious that we live in a culture that allows children to murder children,” Haas told the New York audience last night.

Moms slamming the NRA is a formidable sight.

“We know we’re on the moral side of this issue,” Haas said, citing statistics showing that violence against women by their partners, and suicides-by-gun, have decreased in states with tougher, new gun laws.

As someone who works in the mental health profession, I’m encouraged to hear so many, including Michael Moore, speak out about the need to restore mental health funding in this violence-plagued nation.

Just hearing Haas makes me more hopeful about protecting children, and curbing gun violence. I’m donating $20 today to help her in this critical work at csgv.org.

Her daughter, Emily, survived the Virginia Tech shooting and is now an elementary school teacher.

There’s something especially hopeful about knowing that.

Giving on Sunday is a weekly feature of living in gratitude.

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