Today, driving my privileged dogs to their privileged hike in the mountains of beautiful Ojai, I had to pull over to the side of the road. I couldn’t see through my tears. A mother was on the radio. She spoke of her son, a boy killed in the nightclub in Orlando.
In the aftermath of this shooting, I know this: This one feels terrible. This one feels personal. This one feels like something must be done.
There are conversations about who to blame. It’s guns, or politics, or radical religious views, or mental illness. We want to point at someone or something to alleviate some of our helplessness.
We want to hate someone.
I feel the urge to hate people who hate gay people. “Really?” I say. “You’re going to hate someone because of who they love? Could you possibly grow the F. up and re-think that?”
Yes, I want to hate, I want to succumb to anger, it would be so much easier. But years of spiritual training, meditation, prayer and an earnest desire to do right kick in. Grudgingly, so grudgingly I loosen my white knuckled grip on my reality of comforting disdain.
And I try and answer hatred with love.
I force myself.
In compassion, I love the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and pets who lost someone dear.
I love the lost lives. Young people filled with hope and plans and longing. I do my best to trust that they are in a sweet place with a greater perspective.
I love the helpers – the hundreds of people standing in line to give blood, literally rolling up their sleeves to donate to strangers in disguise.
I love Trader Joe’s, who fed the blood-line people.
I love the capacity for healing that comes from this. Will we wake up? Will we see that love is love? Will we claim Martin Luther King’s directive to drive out darkness with light?
And if I’m really in a good place – someday, maybe not today – but someday I may find the capacity to love those who hate.
Maybe I can love those who kill others, these desperate souls of fear and anguish. They project their own self-hatred on an innocent world.
Maybe I can love the people who will politicize this, people who want to win, to be seen and heard.
Maybe, if I can’t love, I can at least see that hate seeks a target.
Maybe I can see we’ve been doing this for eons.
And maybe I can confuse the target-seeking-hatred with my love.
What will that look like?
I don’t know. But I suspect it has something to do with micro-choices in the moment that are the exact opposite of what my ego would want.
When a preacher in a church I visited mocks Ellen Degeneres (years ago) for coming out of the closet, love looks like taking him quietly aside and saying “I admire Ellen for her courage.” I didn’t take this action at that time. I stalked out of the church. I still regret it.
Or it looks like wanting to teach a class at my church in California. The class originated in Tennessee and the contract says that I can give a discount to straight couples but not gay couples. My ego wanted to go on a rampage. My soul led me to a respectful conversation with the creators of the class where we both shared our “policies,” and I politely declined theirs.
Or it looks like the knowing that gay or straight is not the issue. Really, sexual orientation is about as provocative as eye color. Race is not the issue. Religion is not the issue. The issue is recognizing that all I have is my life. My life is my opportunity; my relationships are my playing field. And in every interaction, I have three choices. I can tear someone down; I can be indifferent; I can build someone up.
I choose love.
I can’t do it alone.
I pray to God, my church, my friends, my family, the strangers I encounter and my ridiculous ego that humbles me every day.
I pray, please help me.
Please help us.
Let us choose love. And so it is.