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.

Have gun, will see movie

have gun

I’ve been in love with Ancient Egypt since I was a little kid, so of course I was going to see “Gods of Egypt” this week.

However, what happened in the lobby after the film put a damper on my outright joy about the astonishing special effects and gorgeousness of the movie. My happiness turned to fear the minute I saw the gun.

There I was with a friend one minute, laughing and joking, excitedly talking about the film. The next minute, she got quiet and asked me, “Do you see that guy with the gun?”

I froze. I felt cold all over. And then I began looking to see what she was talking about. About 15 feet away was a man at the concessions counter with a semi-automatic in a holster on his hip. He didn’t look like a cop; he was dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, was older and balding.

My friend and I talked about what we should do. The man seemed to just be getting popcorn. But what if he was dangerous? What if he had come to the theater to kill people? In a week where there have been two mass shootings in our country, and a two-month period where there have been a reported 34 mass shootings in the U.S., that didn’t seem like a stretch to me. And that very thing had happened in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012; a man opened fire in a movie theater and killed 12 people.

“Do you think he’s law enforcement?” my friend asked me in a hushed tone. “That’s a pretty serious-looking gun.”

Indeed it was. I’ll admit it – I was really scared.

“What if he’s crazy?” I answered.

“Think I should ask him why he has it?” I almost asked, and then immediately pictured him pulling it out and shooting me in the chest as soon as I asked why he had the gun.

“Well, if I report him to someone from the theater,” I said out loud, “I would hate for him to be crazy and then I would be responsible for that person getting shot.”

We discussed the man for only a few minutes, but it seemed like forever. My eyes never left the gun at his side.

Finally, my friend’s friend had arrived for the movie they were going to see. We headed for the ticket counter and my good sense finally kicked in, or maybe my curiosity got the best of me. I asked the girl at the counter, “Did you know that man has a firearm?”

She was the one who looked panicked now, and she quickly said, “No,” and radioed for a manager.

I pointed him out and the manager approached him. A minute later, she laughed and headed back toward us. Turns out she knew a man the man with the gun was with, and he was involved with law enforcement.

A family member told me later that it’s the law in this state that you’re allowed to carry a gun in the open as long as it is clearly visible. OK, I guess, but I have some questions.

If that man was law enforcement, why did he need a gun in a movie theater on a Saturday when he was clearly not on duty? Did anyone else see that gun and get scared witless like me? Sure, maybe it would be good to have a person trained in shooting if someone else went off the rails and opened fire, but how are the rest of us supposed to know who is who anymore?

If this topic means something to you, please share it with others and/or comment. I’d love to hear from you.