Responding To The Massacre in Orlando

Our school’s response to the massacre in Orlando.

  • C = colleague in the LGBT community
  • F = childhood friend in the LGBT community
  • DH = dear husband

Yesterday I told C, who reads my blog, that I wanted to post about the massacre in Orlando, but that I didn’t know if I should just include a photo of our school’s card or if I should also share how the past week has played out for me personally. “It’s never ‘all about me,’ ” I said to her, “but this time it’s REALLY not about me. As someone in the LGBT community, what would speak more to you?” C encouraged me to tell my personal story. “People who read your blog want to know about you,” she said. “Write your response. Make it clear that you’re writing as a white woman who is hetero and Christian, and acknowledge the privilege in that identity.” 

So that’s what I’m doing.

Where I was when I found out

F is a childhood friend I hadn’t seen for five years. She lives in the U.S. now, but she and her siblings returned to town a couple of weeks ago to attend a family wedding. They stayed together at a house in the old neighbourhood, and F made arrangements to get together with some of her friends from school days. She asked me if she could stay overnight at our place last Saturday night. Her brother and his friends were going to be having an old style house party, and she didn’t want to stick around for it.

So F came to our place last Saturday afternoon. She, DH, and I had a wonderful visit. Faith and finances ended up being the centre of much of our conversation. F has explored different religions, and she has a unique insight into the message of Christ, to which she is returning. She’s also had a financial wake-up call, and she was very interested in hearing about our journey out of debt. F listened to the podcast of our talk at church from 2014, and she cried. “I can relate to this SO much!”

Our low-key visit included three meals, a long walk with the dog, and a failed effort to watch a movie. (I fell asleep.) Sunday afternoon, I drove F back to the house where she was staying with her siblings. She would be flying home on Monday, and she promised it would not take another five years for her to come back to town. As I started my drive back home, I turned on the car radio. So for me, it was just after I’d dropped off my dear friend – who identifies as a lesbian – that I found out about the mass murder in Orlando of people targeted for their sexual orientation.

What could I do?

The news left me in a fog of shock for days. Too much to process. So much hate.

As I drove to work Monday morning, my head swimming with new details that kept emerging, I was determined to harness within me a simmering chaos of sadness, rage, incredulity, powerlessness . . . – and to DO something. I’m a teacher, and I work in a high school library. I thought of staff and students in the LGBT community. If I was feeling this raw, how were they feeling?

The idea of a card came to mind. I’d write a card to establish a stand against the hatred of the weekend’s massacre, and to extend empathy to the the LGBT population in our school. Only one voice – but hopefully one that would be magnified by the signatures of others. A big card. With lots of white space for names.

As soon as I could get to my computer in the school library, I started to write the words for the card in great big font. “I’ll need to ask someone else to read this before I do anything with it,” I thought as I approached the end. A voice surprised me. “OK, now I have to hug you.” It was C. I stood up to hug her, sensing the brutal impact that the shooting had had on her. “There’s something I want you to read,” I said. “I’ve already read it,” she told me. “I could see it over your shoulder.” I shared my idea for the card with her, and she was behind it.

The principal gave his approval. I glued the message to a bristol board along with pieces of blank paper. And by the time the 9:00 bell had rung to signal the beginning of the school day, staff and students in our very multi-cultural school had started to sign it.

My first devotional reading after the Orlando massacre

I have never succeeded in establishing a daily habit of reading the Bible, but I want to. It had been many days since I had done a proper devotional reading when I finally picked up my Bible again Tuesday morning. I found my bookmark half way through Acts 10. It’s a long chapter, and clearly, I hadn’t made it through the whole thing last time I’d read. Starting at verse 23, I soon came to these words, spoken by the apostle Peter, in verse 28: “But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.” I am keenly aware of other verses in scripture. This is nevertheless the one that my readings brought me to just at that time.

To the LGBT community in the bloggosphere

Communities overlap. And within this pf bloggosphere, there is an LGBT community. I want you to know that I stand against the targeted hatred of last weekend’s massacre. With you, I mourn the loss of lives cut short. With you, I will continue to strive towards a world in which such atrocities have no place.


Your comments are welcome.

 

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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  • That’s beautiful! I was just telling a friend last night that while there is so much hatred in the world, things HAVE changed a lot towards the perception of the LGBT community since I was a kid. While it would have been something (in the 70s and 80s) that happened to THEM, this happened to all of us. It’s amazing to see groups who you’d never think would put their arms around that community embrace them. As a non-religious straight liberal, it’s easy for me to say, but not so easy for people who were raised with different beliefs and a way of life, so I love to see that love growing in the world. While we have a long way to go, we’ve also come pretty far.

    • Thanks, Tonya. I’m disturbed by the fact that religious beliefs do get in the way of basic, human compassion in some instances for some people. No matter what beliefs are involved, anyone with a heart of flesh instead of stone felt the devastation of that shooting. People at our school from many different faith backgrounds – Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic – signed that card with compassion. There was a lot of rage and sadness, and a sense of paralysis in terms of not knowing how to channel it. Here was a chance to direct it to a stand against hatred.

  • What a great card at your school. I’m sure that helped a lot of people deal with their feelings this week. It’s unthinkable that someone could should show such hatred towards the LGBT community or towards any person. We need to remember we are all brothers and sisters and just get back to treating each other with some common decency

  • I feel so badly for all of the families who have lost their dear loved ones in that tragedy. I can understand why it hit you especially hard, being close to people in that community. I’m glad that you felt led to make that card and write this post. You are a truly wonderful and compassionate person, Ruth, and I am so happy to call you Friend.

    • It hit many people hard. I could see certain people – and I’m thinking of straight people – who had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other to function at work competently for the first few days of the week. I too think of the families who have lost a loved one. Many of the people who died were the age of our adult children. Thank you, Friend : )

  • We were in a plane on our way to Orlando the morning of the shooting and have been here for a week. The town was quiet and people were visibly shaken when we arrived. We listened to the horrific stories on the local news that evening, admittedly a little concerned for our safety.

    Your card says it all. I can’t wrap my mind around the hatred that caused this tragedy. My heart goes out to the family and friends of the victims as well as the entire LGBT community. Thank you for sharing.

    • Amanda, I’m sure you had something very different in mind when you went to Orlando with your family. The shock must have gone double for you. I think it would be a good thing if we could never “wrap our minds around the hatred that caused this tragedy.”

  • Beautiful response, Ruth. It really is too tragic and too much to process. An unimaginable degree of hatred. Thank you for sharing that verse, as well.

    I’d never noticed the link to your talk at your church before. I’m definitely going to check that out!

    • I was struck by the timing of my reading of that verse. It was the third of the events that were beyond my control (1st – the timing of F’s visit; 2nd – the timing of C’s arrival in the library) that made me sit up and take notice. The talk we gave at church lasted about 40 minutes, so it’s not a quick listen, but I hope you get something out of it. Thanks, Kalie.

    • Thank you, Latoya. I remember standing there in silence with the social worker at our school after he had raised the subject that first Monday. “There are no words,” was all I could manage. “No,” was all he said.

    • Thank you, Revanche. I understand your silence, and I’m glad you have chosen to stand behind your friends – which speaks volumes in itself.

  • This was a real tragedy and I am glad to see people putting down barriers. The same tragedy could have happened anywhere else & to a completely different group of people and it would still be a tragedy. Murder is murder, even if it happen to those we do not share any beliefs with.

    • The same has happened to far too many different groups unfortunately – including children in a school and church members in a Bible study. Murder is murder as you say, and it baffles me.

  • It’s unfortunate how at-odds the Christian church and the LGBT community are (or appear to be), and it’s been a frustration as a Christian to see a whole group of people feel shunned from the church. I have some friends who have strong anti-LGBT thoughts and it crushes me to hear it. This was such a great post and there is no “right” way to react to the tragedy that happened.

    • Thank you, DC. There are certainly wrong ways to react to the tragedy, and I think that this shooting has caused such damage not only by its own horror, but by the way in which it has been leveraged to support the agenda of different interests. As for Christians, I don’t think our call is to be in our heads reconciling scripture, but to open our hearts and stand by our friends in grief against hatred.

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