(NEWTOWN, Conn.) — While the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School have left many in the nation shaken, they have also inspired an outpouring of acts of kindness from across the U.S. and around the world.
The central hub of many of these is on display in the U.S. Post Office in Newtown, Conn., a community grieving over the killing of 20 children and six school staff members by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who also killed his mother and shot himself.
Mountains of mail and packages are flowing in from all over the world. Some are simply addressed to “Newtown” or specific families who lost people in the shootings.
“I think I saw Brazil, Australia, (one addressed to) ‘Anybody in Newtown who needs a hug.’ It is just amazing,” said a postal employee in Newtown.
In the town hall, donated toys are piling up just in time for Christmas.
Kindness is even flowing from victims of other tragedies like Hurricane Sandy, who sent hundreds of teddy bears to hand out to children in the community.
“We’ve had so much help, we wanted to pay it forward and try to help somebody else,” one woman said.
Now, Newtown is hoping people everywhere “pay it forward” in their own communities, with the memory of those lost in the shooting serving as inspiration. It’s a concept that seems to be spreading across America.
In Michigan, a secret Santa of sorts paid off everyone’s layaway items at a store there.
Reports are streaming in on Twitter from around the nation of others receiving coffees or meals paid for anonymously by others.
In New Jersey, Kristen Albright told ABC News she found an anonymous card in her shopping cart at Target, where she had gone to buy ingredients for holiday cookies.
She looked down, and found a gift card to Target inserted into a greeting card that asked her to pay it forward to others, in honor of Newtown shooting victim Catherine Hubbard.
“It really made me stop. I was frozen. It made me think about that little girl,” Albright said.
Inspired, she did what the card asked, and gave it to a bank teller at the other end of a deposit she was making.
Stacey Jones of Surprise, Ariz., wrote to ABC News to say she too has been inspired.
“I went to Target, purchased two gift cards, put them in separate envelopes along with the message and handed them to strangers as I exited the store and entered the parking lot,” Jones said. “It really felt good to do a small kind deed for someone.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Matt McFarland, CNN
Lisa France, CNN
Amanda Jackson, CNN