In the first couple of days following the Orlando shooting, my mama heart ached with the parents who lost their children and the ones whose fear for their children was taken to new levels. To simply say that parents of LGBTQ kids had their fears for their child’s safety renewed would be an understatement.
Please take a moment to hear Molly Lavacek, the mom of one of my friends and colleagues, tell about her reaction. She originally posted it to her FaceBook page and with her permission, it’s now here for you to experience:
So much is on my mind. It’s a long post, but one that I had to write. Ignore grammar, spelling, and punctuation this one time please, this came fast. Also not an invitation for arguments, just a heartfelt plea for love.
What do you do after watching the news unfold about the worst mass shooting in the country’s history? A shooting whose target population is one your first daughter is a member of. Watching the death toll climb, the interviews with survivors, experts, family, doctors, officers, first responders—what do you do when it all becomes too much? You send your daughter a text that says, “I love you,” and you go outside into the warm summer afternoon and cry and cry and cry. You sob as you see the untended garden and you go to it. You tend to your untended garden as you think about fear and misunderstanding. You review your daughter’s life and her journey into becoming who she is today. And you tend your garden. You nudge the overgrown plants away from those just starting to send up stalks. You gently tug the grass out of the dirt so it does not disturb the new shoots. You trim the spent blooms and scatter the seeds from the heads hoping to encourage new growth. You trim and nudge and scatter and sob. And sob. And sob.
You think about the people who tended to your daughter as she became who she is. You think about the young people your daughter works to help feel safe and supported as they grow into who they are. You thank the sun for shining upon the garden and the rain (you thought would never end but did) for raining down upon the seeds planted what now feels like ages ago. You thank. You think. You are amazed. And you sob. And you know later you will rage as fear settles in and you realize how damn afraid you are for your first daughter. You will sob again as you wonder where she may have been last night if she lived in Orlando.
I remembered driving through Oklahoma the other day and inadvertently tuning in to a Christian radio station. We stayed on the station thinking it was a public station—thinking it was a show about finances. The second caller spewed about the NBA’s decision to have rainbow shirts made for each team in support of Pride Month. He wanted to know why they would do this. The announcer said it was to support “some gay organization called G-L-S-E-N, whose purpose it is to go into the schools and indoctrinate the children.” Emma is a GLSEN (pronounced ‘glisten’) volunteer. She trains educators and students to provide a safe and supportive environment for the LGBTQ community. She works to ensure that stereotypes are taken apart and that all students have access to a school environment that is welcoming and secure. I wonder what this announcer thinks of this shooting. Is he on the same page with the lieutenant governor of Texas? That ‘these people’ have brought this upon themselves? Does he too believe you ‘reap what you sow’?
I do not believe that you always reap what you sow. I believe we use that phrase when something horrifying happens to someone we do not like, agree with, or understand. When we need to justify devastating and chaotic situations so that we look like we had nothing whatsoever to do with the outcome. So that we can say, “Your garden, your mess.” Sometimes the rain doesn’t ever end and sometimes it destroys your garden despite the fact you have done everything to protect it, to make sure the conditions are right for extra water. Sometimes the sun never stops pounding the earth, heating it beyond what any plant can take despite your attempts to shade and nourish and protect. Sometimes the conditions are unbearable. But in the end, we all have to tend to our gardens and sometimes we sob while we do so. But we must look at our lives and ask ourselves if we could tend to our neighbor’s garden too? Our neighbor who lives a life we may not understand. We need to wonder about what we have left untended and what it could do to encourage such hatred. I do not believe that this shooting was done as a random act of extremist religious conviction. This population was targeted. What have we done that might allow such hatred to flourish? Where did we nourish the growth of such hatred?