I woke up this morning feeling heavy. Feeling like the weight of this cross was too much to bear. I felt like every mother desperately trying to call their son, their daughter and every hospital in Orlando, to simply hear that they were okay. I remembered. I remembered the first time that I met Melinda, my wife, in a LGBT nightclub in Charlotte. A nightclub that was filled with other people who loved like me. I felt safe, welcomed, for once I felt like I belonged. That nightclub was my sanctuary. That nightclub was my safe place. And that nightclub could have been targeted just like Pulse.
All of my life, I’ve been surrounded by strong people. I share the DNA of generations of warriors who never took off their protective armor; who, despite living their lives oppressed, never allowed the dark forces to defeat them. And I know they must’ve grown weary, but they never surrendered hope.
I woke up this morning feeling heavy. Feeling like the weight of this cross was too much to bear. And I realize that some people will never feel this. Someone reading this post right now may never feel what I’m speaking of. You’ll never know what it’s like to be born and have people telling you that God, your Creator, does not love you. That who you are, not who you chose to be, but who God created, is an abomination. You’ll never know that magnitude of loneliness. You’ll never know what it’s like to raise a black child in America. To be nervous every time they miss a curfew because you’re afraid they may have fit a description. You’ll never know what it’s like to raise a daughter in a world that will excuse rape and turn a blind eye to domestic violence, whenever the predator can afford to buy justice.
You will never know what that feels like. You will never have that elephant in your room. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot exhibit compassion.
This morning I reminded myself of a decision I had made last night- “I will be aware but I refuse to live in fear. I am just not willing to give anyone or anything that kind of power over me.” I made that decision understanding that each victim of the Orlando shooting would want me to live my life that way. They wouldn’t want the music to stop. They wouldn’t want us to wave our white flags.
I had a meeting this morning. After the meeting concluded, one of my colleagues stopped me as I was leaving his office, “Hey, are you okay?” I turned around, trying to hold back the tears, and he said, “I know about what happened in Orlando and I know it must have affected you- are you okay?” I went on to share how it had rattled me and my wife and how some of our friends actually knew some of the victims. I shared how heavy it gets at times and he listened. He just listened. He, for just a few minutes, tried to understand what I was feeling. He gave me a gift today that we all should give each other, every single day. The gift of compassion. Putting all of our differences aside, he was willing to say, “I see you, just as another human being, and I want to know if you’re okay.”
Ask someone that today. Remove all the differences and the distorted religious doctrine and choose love. Choose compassion. Choose to see that person, not their skin color or their sexual orientation, see that person. See that person as someone’s child, as someone’s best friend, as someone’s spouse, as God’s creation and ask them, “Are you okay?”