“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today was a very tough day. I woke up to the news that a gunman had opened fire on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, my former home. The first report I read indicated that more than twenty people had been killed, but fairly quickly, that number rose to fifty, with fifty-three others injured. What horrible, horrible news.
Throughout the day, I read reports of the shooting, heard calls for a ban on assault rifles, as well as the predictable backlash from those who oppose more restrictive gun laws. It didn’t take long before well-meaning people on both sides of the issue were arguing and calling each other names. Everyone thinks they have the answer to prevent future tragedies, and I have no doubt that everyone wants what’s best for their loved ones and for the country, but the vitriol on both sides saddened and disappointed me.
It would be really easy to look at the situation that is still unfolding in Orlando and get discouraged. I hate what has happened, yet I can’t help but notice the way this tragedy is bringing people together from all over Central Florida, as well as from around the world.
- I am struck by the outpouring of love and support expressed by so many people, all prompted by the evil acts of one misguided soul.
- I am filled with hope and pride at the way people from all walks of life are taking a stand against the hate that was directed at the LGBTQ community.
- I am gratified to read posts on Facebook from Muslims decrying the senseless killings done in the name of Allah, and denouncing the killer’s association with Islam.
- My heart is filled to read messages sent by some of my friends who teach at the University of Central Florida in Orlando to make certain that their students are safe.
- I am grateful for police and other first responders from Orlando and the surrounding community who went into harm’s way to help the injured and stop the killing.
- I am thankful that all of my Orlando friends and family are safe and accounted for.
- I was brought to tears to witness thousands of people standing in line in the sweltering Florida heat to donate blood, and I stand in awe of the individuals and business who distributed water and opened bathrooms to those waiting in line.
- And finally, I am reassured that every time I have seen hate rise up to consume us, love has rushed in to destroy the hate. It always has, and I am confident it always will.
I know there can be love and beauty in the midst of hate and ugliness. I’ve seen it before, and I saw it today in Orlando. Somehow, we must to find a way to accentuate the love and magnify the beauty. We cannot allow the enemy to win. We must build something good out of this horrendous situation. It’s up to each of us. We can either be weak and hopeless, giving into our fears, or we can be strong and hopeful, knowing that we have the power to create a better world. I choose the latter.