Monday, June 13, 2016

God Loves Everyone

By A.M.

By now, you've likely read about the horrific massacre in Orlando. I have no doubt that there will be a million think pieces written about this tragedy. While I hope there will be critical examinations of issues beyond gun control (i.e. homophobia, masculinity, mental health, etc.), I won't be exploring those here. I simply want to speak plainly and honestly about love.

Over the past few months, I have spent my Friday mornings volunteering at a place called Emily's House. It's a hospice for children, operated by the Philip Aziz Centre. I come every week and play with the children, read books, run errands - generally, just do what little I can to help grieving, stressed families. People often ask me how I can do this work, when it must be such an awful, sad place. And while it's true that there is a deep, profound sadness at Emily's House, the overwhelming feeling at his place is one of joy. In Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens wrote that certain kinds of grief, though painful, can in itself possess a sombre joy. "Joy and grief were mingled...but there were no bitter tears: for even grief arose so softened, and clothed in such sweet and tender recollections, that it became a solemn pleasure, and lost all character of pain.” In my time at Emily's House, I have felt my heart soften for the pain and struggle of everyday people. In all of our expressions of anger, of sadness, of frustration at do-nothing politicians, we must not forget to love, and allow ourselves to love.

I hope the reader will forgive my indulging in personal anecdotes, but I do believe that our experiences of love and solidarity, even through deeply tragic experiences, are important in the days ahead. As the affected families identify their loved ones, make their funeral arrangements, and begin to process what will be lifelong grief, the rest of us have a lot of work to do. It is crucial that we critique the world around us and the actions of others. We must engage, personally and politically, with a culture that turns massacres into entirely predictable, and very profitable, entertainment. But in order to make this world better what we need is kindness. Strike up a conversation with the homeless person you see on your daily commute. Help an elderly person carry their groceries down to the subway. Crack a joke with your co-workers. These actions may seem small and insignificant, but taken together, they help make the world a better place. There are no limits to how far we can go, if only we are willing to talk, love and co-operate.

The massacre in Orlando has offended the conscience of the world, as it ought to. On an early summer's evening, people want to go out, have a few drinks, dance, and forget their troubles. We want to talk, laugh, hug, and kiss. We want to revel in each other's shared humanity. The heartless killer responsible for this tragedy took what should have been an unremarkable - albeit enjoyable - night, and turned into yet another flashpoint in our never-ending culture wars. Families have been ripped apart. Brothers and sisters will never see each other again. These were human beings who were loved and needed by others; people who wanted to learn and help their fellow human beings; people who desired a decent life and a decent world. I could write a million words critiquing the culture that got us to a place where these killings are, sadly, predictable. I could write an angry article about this tragedy, its aftermath, and what I believe our response ought to be. Instead, I merely ask anyone reading this to be just a little bit softer in their day-to-day lives. Tell those around you that you love them. Hug your partner, or your children, or your friends, just a little tighter. Call up an old friend to apologize for that stupid comment.

We will all lose so much in this life. Don't let killers and hatemongers take our humanity as well.

There are no gates in Heaven 
Everyone gets in 
Queer or straight 
Souls of every faith

Hell is in our minds 
Hell is in this life 
But when it's gone 
God takes everyone 
- Ron Sexsmith

A.M. is a writer in Toronto.

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