For a week I’ve been struggling to process the horrific events that played out at The Pulse Night Club in Orlando. I’ve written about it. I’ve deleted what I’ve written. I’ve prayed, and I’ve prayed some more. No doubt the shooting that left 50 people dead and another 50+ injured is couched in some deeply personal and deeply political issues. Gun violence. The second amendment. Respect toward the LGBT community. I could write a scathing post that stares down these issues and stirs up my readers – for good or otherwise. But then I would be just another loud voice among the cacophony of voices out there who all believe their opinions are in the best interest of our country.
I write as a Christian, a strong believer in the grace and love of Jesus Christ. And when it comes right down to it, the tragedy that unfolded at The Pulse last week is about people. Human beings who had their lives ripped out from under them.
Orlando, you’re in our thoughts and prayers.
How many people have said or thought something along these lines over the past 9 days? I know I have. Yet, as the horrifying news continued to unfold from nightclub – 20 reported dead, then 50, with many more critically hurt – that familiar, uncomfortable restlessness began to stir in me.
This is a restlessness I feel every time a national tragedy strikes. While families are devastated by the unexpected news that someone they loved was a victim of senseless violence, my day-to-day life goes on. Still, I eat breakfast and lunch and dinner, fret over the mounds of housework to be done, go to the office, juggle heavy workloads, watch a favorite show.
I pray, and my life goes on.
I was so moved by a Facebook post this week from a dear friend of mine from college. Jesus, she pointed out, didn’t just pray. He acted. He immersed himself in the front lines. He was in the middle of the mess. He felt people’s tears on his skin. He stared down death and pain and desperation.
“He got his hands dirty and his heart broken,” my friend wrote. He was there.
Not everyone can hop a plane and descend on the mass pain and sorrow that is continuing to unfold in Orlando. But we can respond in other ways.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Here are 7 ways to help Orlando:
- Give blood.
In the hours following the Orlando mass shooting, hundreds of Orlando residents lined up to give blood. So many people turned out that OneBlood, an Orlando blood center, reported that the blood supply had been replenished in record time.
But even if you don’t live in Orlando, your blood donation helps ensure blood supply throughout the year. It could help one individual in need, or it could be part of the supply that aids in the next national tragedy. In a compelling article, The Gospel Coalition’s Joe Carter writes: “Even if we don’t live in the Orlando area, this event can remind us that daily tragedies occur and blood donations are always needed in your community.”
- Fight hate with love.
How can you show love to one person today? Use the Orlando tragedy as a catalyst to live more intentionally for others. Perform random acts of kindness. Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s easy to love people who we know well and with whom we share similarities. But what about the homeless man on the street corner? The single dad next door? The house full of wild teenagers in your neighborhood? “ Loving those who are different is not easy,” writes author Angela Price. “It’s a sacrifice, but Jesus did it for us. When he came to rescue us, we were all lost in sin. We were ‘risky’ for him, even to the point of crucifixion. Yet he entered into a world filled with filth, and willingly laid down his life in love. This is how we share Christ with those desperate for saving grace.”
- Educate yourself about gun control and gun violence
Seek factual information about our nation’s heated gun control debate. Don’t just sign the next petition calling for this or that. Don’t blindly follow. Get the facts, and then write to your representatives calling for support and action.
Join discussions and find facts:
- Give financially.
Pledge any amount to the American Red Cross here.
Your donation can help central Florida, or help the ARC prepare for the next disaster. Not surprisingly, many organizations are calling for donations in the wake of the Orlando tragedy. Give with discretion with the help of sites like CharityNavigator, a site that scrutinizes how efficiently charities use donated funds and rates them accordingly; and Guidestar.org, which aims to provide organizational transparency and governance. According to www.money.com, experts recommend sticking with groups that limit their overhead expenses to less than 20% of their budget. Never donate money via Facebook or Twitter directly.
5. Take a CPR class.
Better prepare yourself to be proactive in the face of crisis. Sign up for a class in your area here.
Our nation is embroiled in so many social and political issues, it is impossible to be an effective voice on every one of them. Use the fiery conversations on issues arising from The Pulse shooting as motivation to identify one cause for which you’ll be an active, assertive voice. Gun control and gun violence. Immigration. Poverty. Then, arm yourself with facts and personal stories to support your stance. In everything, respond in love.
7. Write a letter
Perform a Google search for churches or counseling centers in Orlando. Choose one or two – or five or 10 – and write to them. Share your sorrow. Tell them you are praying for them and then follow through. Ask how you can support or show love from afar. Consider launch a letter-writing campaign with a group of friends to reach even more people in the Orlando area.
In the wake of the devastation coming out of Orlando, our lives will go on. But perhaps, as the numbers of tragedies and senseless deaths continue to climb, we can act in our own day-to-day lives with more intention, more focus on others and less on ourselves. Perhaps we can, as my friend so graciously called to attention, be the change we wish to see in the world.