On Sunday, like many of you, I woke to hear of yet another mass shooting. This time in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando. Reports initially said 20 had died and countless others were wounded, but it wasn’t long before the Orlando police held a press conference to revise the number of casualties to 50. Then 49.
49 casualties they said. I had to look up the word “casualty” to make sure I understood what they meant. Casualty. I didn’t want to believe it.
49 beating hearts snuffed out. 49 lives cut short. 49 beings who won’t be returning home. Who danced, who laughed, who bared their souls. Who kissed, who hugged, and whose only fault was that they lived their lives. As we all do.
While a debate ensued as to whether this was a terrorist act or a hate crime, I already knew the answer. All of the above. And debating about it won’t bring any of the fallen back to us. My heart goes out to their loved ones, the LGBT community and all of humanity, because with this senseless act, we all are victims.
This is a story that for the next few days will be told over and over on the news channels and on the web. New information will be exposed, and we will be shocked and saddened by it all.
A Ray of Light:
Which is why, while we grieve, I want to tell you of another story. One that has brought me a ray of hope and also joy. That touches my heart and reminds me of the good in the world and how each one of us has a purpose. How the choices we make, however small, can have a ripple effect on others.
Recently, I received an email from someone I had lost touch with and had not spoken to in years. In fact, she was a child the last time I saw her. A little girl of eight or nine, who is now on the precipice of adulthood, about to graduate from high school. And here’s what she had to say:
I don’t know if you remember me but I am the daughter of the lady who was your housekeeper. So many years have pass by but I’ve always carried you in my mind. I wanted to thank you for everything, throughout my childhood I remember when you gave me books to read and little gifts. I also remember you telling me to keep on going to school because it was very important. Despite the fact that I had so little, to keep on trying because there were a lot of opportunities.
As a little kid I knew college was an option but I didn’t know it was reachable for me. You were one of the few who ingrained that idea in my mind and I highly appreciate you for that. In one month I will be graduating from high school and will attend university in the fall. I am so excited to keep on studying and feel extremely grateful to have this opportunity. I have to thank life for putting special, loving human beings like you in my life. Thank you so much, Monica!
Despite everything that has happened this week, when I think of Paulina and her note, my heart beams with gratitude. As Francine Nolan, the main character in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” would say, my cup runneth over.
Paulina is the first in her family to go to college. She currently attends a school where 68 percent of the student population is considered “economically disadvantaged” and she has worked hard to save up money in order to afford the school yearbook, prom and a prom dress. She is interested in fashion design and has hopes of one day seeing the world. I have every reason to believe that Paulina will one day see her wish come true.
Since receiving that email, I have met up with Paulina a few times and we’ve had some long, occasionally philosophical, conversations. Next week I’m planning to be at her high school graduation ceremony when she walks. I’ll be the one cheering like crazy when, upon graduation, she switches the tassel from the right side to the left.
I’ll be the one beaming with pride.
I’m so grateful to be reading your post a little later, Monica, for after Orlando, I’ve been in a place where I’ve constantly looked for light, positivity and good energy wherever I went.You and I have talked about this before, the necessary gun control, the senseless need to take lives and why it continues. That number, 49, has stayed with me for a long time. The lives, the families, the entire LGBT community… all I’ve done is watch the news and watch with hope as the filibuster happened.
What a light Paulina is. She has the brightest future ahead. You, my friend, are one of those rare and beautiful people you come across who can touch a life, changing it instantly.
Thank you for the reminder, of light, of good, of kindness. It is needful in these days; both the reminder and the acts.
I loved this story. You are a good person.
Thank you so much, Val. Yesterday, I attending Paulina’s graduation and it was like none that I’d been to before. Here the focus was on doing good in the world and coming back to help your home community, but also how important it is to not end up in prison. That there will be people waiting for them to fail, because of the color of their skin, and income level, but that they need to ignore those naysayers and prove them wrong. It struck me how steep the climb to success is for these young people. It was a very revealing moment for me.
Truth tellers need to be heard as our young venture out to find their way. Terrible truths but maybe if we tell them and then show them better ways, maybe then we can start to build a better world.
Thank you for reminding us that goodness always prevails.
Yes, it does. Thanks for stopping by to read this post! Much appreciated!
I like the way Kim put it: we would go mad if we didn’t bring our attention to the light and let it carry us beyond the darkness. In the link I posted on FB, Rebecca Solnit makes a strong case for how disaster unifies people (except for those who shall remain nameless and take advantage of the situation to spout their ugly political beliefs). Oh, dear — there I go again 😉
I agree with Rebecca Solnit. I’ve seen countless good things come out of even the most horrific tragedies. However the one I wrote about didn’t come out of any tragedy, but coincidentally I received the email just before the tragedy. Hoping to show that when these events happen, there are still reminders of the good in people and in this world. Remembering the positive helps us cope with the losses, I think.
Monica, I’ve heard it said that the good we do comes back to us. I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly is in your case. Bless you for encouraging this young woman and giving her someone to look up to! Congrats to her on her graduation and best wishes for much success to come!
As for Orlando, yes, there’s so much sadness in this ole world. Pinpointing the problem doesn’t make the problem go away, and pointing fingers at others doesn’t help either. Those of us who pray need to redouble our efforts!
I am devastated, not only by what happened in Orlando, but the discourse around it since. Awful, just awful. I hold out hope for more stories like Paulina’s. She’s truly a success story and it’s gratifying to know that her life has only just begun. 🙂
What happened in Orlando was truly truly terrible.
We seem to be in a time where people are hell bent on doing terrible things in the name of one cause or another.
The news headlines these days often read more like an obituary column in the newspaper.
I took a look earlier at the headlines on the BBC news web site and there was not one bit of good news, not one single light amongst the darkness.
Then I read the second half of your post, Paulina is a light, she is if you like a beacon pointing in a positive direction to the future. Enjoy her graduation Monica, I think time will show that you will be watching one super special person graduate.
Thanks, Robert. I’m very excited to see her again and what a lovely young woman she’s become. She is proof of the good in the world and I hope we’ll be able to stay in touch. I wish her all the best for a bright and shiny future!
Thru darkness comes light.
If this were not so, we’d all go MAD.
Heartbreaking what is happening in the world…filled w/ hate,
but also the good that is happening…overflowing w/ love.
xxx kiss for you, Monica.
I agree, Kim. We need to focus on the good moments. Otherwise how could we endure the horrific ones?