It would be easy to seek refuge into one of the familiar corners that spring up whenever a mass-shooting situation occurs. I could race to the anti-gun side and call for stricter regulations on sales or increased background checks, or hustle over to the anti-immigration side and lament our porous borders and lack of enforcement. I could soar with the Hawks, argue for intervention, and vow to “take the fight to them.” Or I could fly with the Doves, plead for more diplomacy, and advocate for a program to change hearts and minds. I could cry out for increased surveillance and tougher tactics, or warn of the dangers that come with a heavier hand. Those camps would certainly be welcoming of another member, and I wouldn’t have to look far to find them—all it would take is a quick scroll of my newsfeed on social media. Don’t get me wrong, I might agree with the folks on one side or the other, but I’ve never been one to share my political views with the masses. Call me old fashioned, but I like to keep my opinions behind the voting booth curtain, shared only with my secret ballot. I keep more friends and dinner party invitations that way.
Instead of lining up behind a fortified position, I choose a different tactic when trying to cope with the overabundance of bad news. I force myself to look for examples of kindness. I tell myself that goodness and light always find a way to shine through. I remind myself that, although evil exists, it only plays a small part in our human condition. And once I convince myself of these essential truths, it’s easy to find examples of the human spirit rising to the occasion.
The goodness of the human spirit was evidenced by the line of citizens who waited in line for six hours outside the blood bank in Orlando to donate plasma to the victims of the shooting. The kindness of our fellow man was demonstrated by the volunteers who delivered water and umbrellas to those in line to shield them from the hot Florida sun. In a society that is often separated by our disagreements, it is comforting to know that, in times of trouble, we always have each other’s backs.
Because, really, what is the alternative? I refuse to believe that I am raising my children in a world that is fundamentally cruel and unkind. As a student of history, I am well aware that bad things happen and usually bad people are to blame. But, they are the exception to the rule. They have to be. Otherwise, why would anyone get out of bed in the morning to face an alternative reality?
You don’t have to look to tragedies to find examples of the kindness of the human race. I see instances of benevolence in my little hometown every day. Like the city guys who work well into the night to sweep the downtown sidewalks and streets so they are clean and welcoming for the chili-walk fundraiser, an event supporting the Toys for Tots program. Or the elementary school principal who visits the home of every single kindergarten student throughout the year to read him or her a bedtime story. Or the drive-thru worker who greets every morning customer with a warm smile and a positive start to their day. Even the retired bus driver who attends every school and sporting event and greets every child as her own. Kindness is all around us. It will never be erased by hate. It cannot be snuffed out by violence. It refuses to be wiped away by ideology.
Despite attempts by the nightly news and Twitter to convince me otherwise, the world is a beautiful place inhabited by beautiful people. This is what I whisper to my son as I tuck him into bed and reassure him that the bad guy in Florida was taken out by the good guys in blue and is no longer around to hurt anybody else. This is what I tell my daughter when she reads the horrific headline too fast, seconds before I can turn the station to Disney Junior. This is what I say to my heart as I rock my baby to sleep and speculate about the state of the world when she becomes a mother. This is what I try to convince myself of as I mourn for the mothers and fathers who will never have the chance to welcome their children home again. This is what I tell myself when I feel my blood begin to boil and the anger begin to rise over another senseless act, another loss of innocent life.
In the oft-quoted words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
If I don’t believe this, if I don’t practice this, if I choose to focus on what divides us rather than what unites us….then they win. And losing this battle isn’t an option.
(Photo Credit: Caryn DeFreez Photography)