I groaned when I got the text from my boss telling me to “find God in Orlando.” I was about to get on a plane for Disney World with no plans of leaving the resort. I wasn’t going to Pulse. I’ve never even been to a nightclub, much less one in a city I’m unfamiliar with. (I like being in bed at 10 p.m., and I’ve heard clubs aren’t jumpin’ until that time.) My heart went out to the families of those lost in the Orlando shooting, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to find them in Disney World.
The first day was pretty standard. Disney had the flags at half mast, but no one was talking about it. There were too many kids around who couldn’t comprehend a hate crime. A couple from China got engaged on Main Street USA, which is more of a reflection on foreign policy than anything else. They were adorable, by the way. They spoke zero English and had at least 15 strangers taking photos and clapping for them.
That’s the thing about places like Disney World—there are so many different types of people crammed into lines and buses. We were WASPs (like me), black, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, pro-life, pro-choice, vegans, vegetarians, and we were all there in the heat together.
Like most people, I was also checking Facebook throughout our trip. Social media was not a happy place last week. I rolled my assignment around in my head and stood in lines for roller coasters, and I started to think about what I would want all these people to know.
I’d want them to know I love them.
Let me be clear on that: Your orientations, opinions, race, choices, political ideologies, passions or anything else that might divide us have no bearing on my love for you. We can disagree on everything, but that does not affect my view that you are made in the image of God, and I love you. You are my neighbor, my friend, the guy sitting next to me on the Disney World bus, and we are all trying to do the best we can. We are all in this together.
I know that’s a lot of pleasantry. If you’ve been hurt, you probably don’t believe me. That’s OK, too. In full disclosure, I’m going to have a big problem with you if you’re mean to animals, kids or old people.
But where was God in Orlando? In Disney World? I found him in the kids. Another confession: I am not one of those women who thinks all children are precious. I worry daily that I won’t like my future kids as much as I do my dogs—I have really awesome dogs. Plus, some kids are just really annoying. They cry a lot, and sometimes they smell really bad. Still, I found God in the children. I found him in the children wearing VBS t-shirts who were hugging Disney workers who were wearing rainbow pins. I found him in the little, blonde girl who became instant best friends with her new black family she adopted while waiting in line.
God is sitting right there in the hope we can teach our kids not to hate. We can teach them to disagree peacefully and politely. As long as there is another generation of little girls in princess costumes or little boys pretending to be Buzz Lightyear, we are not hopeless.
My heart breaks for the families that lost someone in the Pulse shooting. You didn’t deserve that.
I’m not good with condolences. If you were here I would bring you frozen ravioli lasagna and do your laundry. That’s my go-to plan for those who are hurting. I just want you to be encouraged that we’re not doomed. There is a whole other generation out there who can be taught not to hate anyone. They are so innocent and precious in His sight. I pray for peace for you. It won’t come now or anytime soon, but I hope one day you can rest. And when that time comes, tell the world what you want us to know about your child.
There’s this saying: Hindsight is 20/20. I hate that. I hate it because it’s true. Tell us where to go from here. Tell us what we need to say to someone who is hurting. What do you want to hear? What do you need? Teach us to comfort those who are hurting. Prepare future parents on how to talk to their kids about hate. Speak to children and teens about loving each other.
Just let us know how to prevent this from happening again.