Trigger Warning: Orlando mass shooting, homophobia, Islamophobia
In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, it’s hard to maintain hope and not fall into despair. But despair paralyzes. Despair too often makes it about our emotional reaction rather than the victims’ or their families. Despair is unsustainable. In contrast, hope inspires and motivates.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen about maintaining hope is from beloved children’s presenter Mr. Rogers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” While I had heard the quote before, I was reminded of it by fellow blogger Alana at Parenting From the Heart in response to the Orlando shooting.
With so many bad things in the local and national news, looking for the helpers provides a place to plant your feet.
Instead of boggling at the evil of the Orlando shooter, wonder at the people waiting in line for hours to give blood.
Instead of mentally shutting down when thinking about the seven mass shootings in 2015, admire the woman who potentially prevented another Sandy Hook by talking to the shooter.
Instead of cursing the bad luck of a local family whose cargo bike got stolen just as their son was recovering from cancer, smile knowing that the community raised nearly $4,000 for them to get a new bike and go on a trip together.
Instead of grinding your teeth at the horror driving out Syrian refugees and the Islamophobia towards them, think about the people dedicated to taking care of them and welcoming them with open arms into their new home countries.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the enormity of climate change, be proud of the protestors around the world that participated in anti-fossil fuel actions.
Once your feet are planted in hope, find a way to join them, be a helper yourself. Even better, find a way for your kids to be helpers too. Taking action and being light is the only way to keep the darkness from swallowing us whole. In fact, my friend and former pastor Todd Thomas started a campaign of 50 Acts of Love in response to the Orlando shooting.
While he has quite a list of ideas, here are some that are specifically applicable in response to Orlando:
- If you care passionately about making systemic change, whether in gun control or LBGTQ rights, write your representatives and get out the vote.
- If you connect one-on-one with people the best, let your LGBTQ friends know that you are available to listen without judgment.
- If you are part of a community of faith for whom prayers for LBGT people actually mean something, go and pray with them.
- If you have money but not time, donate to Orlando’s local shelter for LBGTQ youth, that serves the 40% of homeless teens that identify as LGBTQ.
- If you have children, emphasize to them how important it is to accept and affirm people no matter who they love.
Even more good ideas are in the posts 8 Ways Allies Can Show Up For the Queer Community After Orlando and An A-Z Guide to Being a Muslim Ally.
Beyond Orlando, we can teach our children to actively be peacemakers. In the wake of last year’s Charleston shooting, I wrote about how I’m trying to teach my boys to be peacemakers. Danielle from Mamademics has an excellent series on Raising an Advocate. And again, Mr. Rogers offers wonderful insight, from his thoughts on how the words we say are more important than teaching the alphabet to his goodbye speech.
I believe all of us, no matter our religion, race or culture are called to love. As Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote for his Tony acceptance speech: “Love is love is love is love is love. It cannot be killed or swept aside.” Now, as much as ever, we need to show that love abundantly to one another.