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.