I learned of the Las Vegas mass shooting at 8:20 a.m. today. My mind, my heart, cried “No, no, no!”
Random and reckless. Terrifying and too much. I remember once again that I live in this world where people can hurt, maim, and kill. I can already see the wave of grief spreading out over the city and state, the country and the world. It takes all my willpower to resist the fear and refuse the helplessness.
A single thought whispers, "Do good. Do something kind. Love someone today."
At first it feels pointless or ineffective or too thin in the face of such thick evil. Yet the thought persists because of what I know.
You see, my son shares a birthday with his uncle. My brother. The brother that was killed—kicked to death—by three men. This isn’t a fact we dwell on when November rolls around and we sing Happy Birthday. For years after my brother’s death, I wished my son could have been born on a different day. But their shared birthday has led me to a comparison I might not have made otherwise.
My son is also a liver transplant recipient. Some organs you can share without giving your life—like kidneys. While others can only be given when your life ends—like hearts. So, yes, a child died unexpectedly and his parents agreed to donate his liver to our son who had been waiting almost three months. Through the next 24 hours of tears and prayers and skilled surgery, he emerged with a healthy liver and a body capable of living. And live he has. For 23 years our family has known joy. Whole-souled, awe-filled joy because of him. Not just because of the miracle of his life, but because of the miracle that someone we didn’t know was allowed to choose to give him another chance at life. They chose to give life, to love a stranger, even in an hour of pain and grief.
While I have grappled with the heart-sickening actions of others—hateful acts of violence and even small mistakes—and how those actions are allowed to wreak havoc in the lives of innocent people, I have gradually come to see what this means for the loving actions of others. Loving actions are allowed to impact us as well. Generous gestures, kind compliments, and heroic rescues can all create waves of comfort and peace. Doctors who dedicate years to practice so they can save a life or relieve a pain. Friends who show up on doorsteps with dinner, neighbors who water your plants and watch the street when you’re out of town. Family members who listen, encourage, and cheer you on—give you a hug (a high-five, a fist-bump—whatever love language you speak.) All of these loving actions can supply happiness and peace, hope and joy. Love can help and heal and give life. And like a wave, it can move through a family, a city, and the world too.
This is my reality: three men I will never know changed the landscape of my family causing immense grief and pain by ending my brother’s life. While another three people, two parents and a child, were allowed to give the gift of life, also changing my family—bringing infinite happiness and joy.
It may be impossible to avoid grief on a day like today—when the news headlines are driving pain into my heart and home. I don’t have maxims or adages and certainly not answers.
But I do have a longing, swelling up into a soul-filled determination, to push back against the wave with one of my own: Do good. Love someone. Don’t hold back.