We can drown out the hate with love

orlando shooting

The day of the Orlando shooting, mere hours after 49 people lost their lives, a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page, “Someone please tell me how I explain this day to my gay child.”

My reply was immediate and required little thought:

“Just make sure he knows he’s loved, and there is a lot more love in the world than hate. Unfortunately, hate gets more attention.”

It’s hard to focus on the good when the bad is way past what we can understand. It feels wrong to state the obvious, that these mass shootings are getting out of hand.

I don’t know why this phenomenon continues to grow. I don’t understand why anyone would think that because someone’s feelings have been hurt, because someone has broken up with someone, because someone has lost a job, because someone has had a hard life that loading one or more guns and heading to a public place to shoot as many people as possible is any kind of solution to their problems.

I worry that the media publicizing these tragedies as much as they do can encourage people to continue the pattern to get their 15 minutes of fame, so to speak. But having been a member of the media for my career until last year, I know that the media can’t just ignore these events either.

I don’t know that taking guns away from gun owners is the answer. There are millions of people, including myself, who own guns who have never shot anything but targets.

I don’t know that changing politicians is the answer, because none of them on either side of the political aisle has stopped the carnage yet.

I know that blaming entire groups of people or cultures and going after them isn’t the answer. There are good and bad people in every single race, color, gender, religion or creed (or lack of one).

I don’t know what the answer is. And I don’t know that anyone else does either. But here is what I do know.

The negative can be stronger than the positive. Brain studies have shown that it takes seven positive comments to drown out one negative comment. So the negative gets more attention, at least in the beginning. But the negative, the hate, can be drowned out.

And every person can make a difference. One of my favorite parables is about a boy trying to save a bunch of starfish that are lying on a beach where they are drying up and dying. I’ll give you the short version.

The boy is walking along and gently tossing each one of them into the ocean. A man comes up to the boy and asks what he’s doing, and the boy explains that the starfish will die without water and he is saving them.

“But you’re just one boy,” the man says. “Think of all of the other starfish all over the world on other beaches. You can’t save them all. You can’t make a difference.”

The boy thinks for a minute and then picks up another starfish and tosses it into the water.

“I made a big difference to that one,” he says.

My point is that we have to start somewhere, and we can start with ourselves. Make a pact with yourself to make no more disparaging remarks about people who are different from you or who live their lives differently than you live. No more hatred to people because they live or believe or choose something you don’t understand. No more.

Just for today, love others, no matter who they are and no matter their circumstances. It’s easy. Give someone a smile. Hold open a door. Lend a helping hand. Cook a meal. Loan a book. Send a message. Make a phone call. Hug someone. Pat someone on the back. Do a good deed.

Now, do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

One day at a time, one person at a time, we can make the world a better place.

It’s time to stop the hate. Do your part. Drown out the hate with love.

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