Last Monday I got out a little early from work. After finishing my run and a few errands, I still had some extra time on my hands. With every intention of making the most of my summer here in Chicago I decided to go to the beach. Can you believe in the year and a half that I have been in Chicago, I haven’t taken advantage of our beautiful lake front beaches? It was so peaceful to just sit on the sand, listening to the waves lap the shoreline. Reading through a devotional, I became overwhelmed with a sense of awe and gratitude. Here is an excerpt from my journal entry–“When you are given days you didn’t expect. When you faced challenges you never thought you’d overcome. When you wished for new life but didn’t think it was possible. Then love made brave. Then love redeemed. Then love compelled to BE.”
Several years ago I was given a second chance at life. As I began picking up the pieces of my life, I often wondered “why me?” Components of my story are shared by thousands, yet I was blessed with the resources and support system I needed to recover unlike many. Often I felt undeserving of it, hiding in shame from my past.
Over time, my sense of shame dissolved and my questions of “why?” gave way to an acceptance that I was given the gift of a second chance at life. Instead of focusing on the WHATs and WHYs of my story, I began to focus on my RESPONSE to what had happened. How will I use it? What I used to look on as a burden, I now see as opportunity. I have a passion for advocating for the forgotten, the unloved. My career focus is to improve an individual’s quality of life through independence. I am running a marathon to bring clean water to impoverished communities in Africa. These are some of my ambitions. This is how I want to respond.
That might sound cool, but I would also like to reiterate that life is NOT easy. It’s twists and turns can be frustrating, unnerving, even tormenting. It is in these valleys of life when responding can be most difficult, and when our response matters most.
This past weekend is a perfect example.
Waking up to the news that a mass shooting occurred in my hometown of Orlando, Florida rocked me. As details of the scale of this horrific act of terrorism were uncovered, I grew overwhelmed.I partially escaped the reality of the situation however, distracted by the commotion of traveling and checking in with my family and friends. It wasn’t until today, when I came home to a quiet house, that it hit me.
The tears didn’t stop.
My heart is breaking for the friends and families of the victims of this massacre. My heart is breaking for the community to which they belong who were so violently singled out. My heart is breaking for an entire people group discriminated against due to the actions of radicals.
I cried tears of sorrow, I cried tears of anger, I cried tears of fear.
I also cried over the outpouring of love and support enveloping the victims and their loved ones from the entire world. People are RESPONDING.
Their response provides a tangible reminder that beauty rises from messy. Hope rises from dispare. Love conquers hate. These redeeming qualities have shown through the ugliness of the situation with first responders risking their lives, health care personnel donating time and resources, 3 hour long lines at Orlando blood banks, airline companies donating flights, strangers donating funds, worldwide prayers and vigils.
I don’t think I will ever be able to comprehend the thought processes orchestrating the acts of terror, violence, and abuse in our world. It seems to go against all reason, all morals of humanity. While this comprehension is outside my capabilities as a human, I am grateful that the WHAT’s of life’s unpleasant twists aren’t the periods of the story. I am grateful for the comma, the semi-colon, the hyphen of RESPONSE. Thank you to all who have shown support to the victims, the loved ones, the communities, the city.
For those of you still looking to get involved, the city of Orlando has set up this link to guide you. http://www.cityoforlando.net/blog/orlandounited-want-to-help-let-us-know/
We were given today. How will we use it? How will we respond?