In light of recent events, I've been thinking a lot, as I know we all have. I refuse to turn this into a political discussion with anyone. I feel as if that is disrespectful to those innocent men and women who lost their lives this past week. And however you may feel, whatever your opinions are, now is not the time to begin politicizing this tragedy or the reasons behind it.
The shooter was a sick man, with serious issues, and that's all we need to know. He was a monster.
As a teacher in middle school, I saw my fair share of "bad apples." Like the FBI, I always tried to give those bad apples a fair chance, and unfortunately, many times they proved that their moniker of bad apple was true. (I am not comparing any former students to this shooter... I have a point, just bear with me.) Sometimes they ended up pulling stunts that got the whole group into trouble, and that always made me so upset. Because there was always good going on around the troublemakers. But the ones misbehaving were the ones getting the most attention. After some time I decided that I was not going to give the misbehaving students the attention. I praised the ones who were doing good deeds, who were completing their work, who were being the good in the room. And the misbehaving ones, I started to ignore and would pull aside after class. They would lose privileges, no doubt, but they were no longer the center of attention in my class. Eventually, the bad behaviors would decrease because they wanted the praise the other students were getting.
Now, having a son my own, this tragedy has hit me in a way that is totally different. I keep thinking, "How am I going to bring my son up in a world like this?" And the more I think about it, the more I know what the answer is: I will bring him up the same way as I would any other time.
I will raise him to do good. Like the stories of people who ran back into Pulse to save a friend. Like the man who rode in the back of a police car to help control the bleeding of a man he did not know to keep him alive. Like the hundreds upon hundreds of people who lined up in the Florida sun to donate blood. Like those who could not donate blood but handed out water and supplies instead. Like the stewardesses on the JetBlue flight who had the passengers write notes of condolence written for the grandmother of one of the victims on her flight to Orlando. For those passengers, who each stopped to offer their condolences, or a hug, or handshake to this woman, never complaining that the deplaning process was taking too long.
I will raise him to recognize that bad people should not capture our attention. Like the news anchors refusing to say his name during a broadcast. Like my friends on social media refusing to use his name on their timelines.
I will raise him to know that love is love is love is love is love. Whether it is the way you live your life or not. Whether you agree with it or not. Whether you know someone who loves differently than you do or not. I'll say it again. LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE. That's it. And in the end, love, in all its forms and manners, will be what gives our lives meaning. Nobody's life deserves less meaning than yours because of who they love.
I will raise him to know that all humans are worthy of dignity and respect and love and life. Skin color doesn't matter. Sexual preference doesn't matter. Life choices don't matter. Your religion doesn't matter. (Side note: If your religion teaches you to hate anyone, it's probably not a good religion.) If you believe in God, then you believe that each and every single person was put on this earth by Him. The Bible tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31) It doesn't say, "Love your fellow Christian as you love yourself," or "love only those who believe in the same things as you as you love yourself." Your neighbor. That means everyone around you.
These are the things I will teach my son. This is the message I will teach him each and every day. I will not teach him to live in fear. I will not teach him to foster evil, or egg it on. I will teach him to nurture love in everyone around him, by his words and by his actions.
That in spite of all the ugly in the world, there is so much beauty. As Anne Frank wrote, "Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."
Let's be the change, let's be the light.
Let's be the good.