Let Tragedy Strengthen Us

This week, I am not writing about sexual health, sexual issues or taboo topics. Every time I tried to write, I kept thinking about the 49 souls lost in the Orlando shooting. I kept thinking about people in general and our sense of community.

I spent last weekend with Coolest. Mom. Ever. at an outdoor women’s survival event. The event is open to 110 women and is a collaboration between state Department of Natural Resources conservation officers, volunteer instructors and other volunteers who worked throughout the day and behind the scenes to give the attendees a great experience.

This is the fourth year we attended and, as in previous years, we left the event feeling connected to others, like we were our own remote community, despite the lack of internet and stable phone service in the area where the event is held.

I arrived back at my own house on Sunday to the news of the Orlando mass shooting. I was bewildered at the incredible and tragic loss of life. I thought about the victims; they were someone’s light and love in this life. And they were violently and abruptly killed.

Actor Frank Langella said during his Tony speech on Sunday night, “When something bad happens, we have three choices: we let it define us, we let it destroy us or we let it strengthen us.”

I agree that when bad things happen we should let them strengthen us.

Remaining positive in any situation is a sign of strength. It typically only takes one person who is positive to turn the negativity of others into something more bearable. We can build our strength as individuals and as a community.

For inspiration on how to be more positive, look to the writings and teachings of Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the Dalai Lama (1935- ), Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) and Maya Angelou (1928-2014). These are just some of the examples I found in my local bookstore.

Individual strength can be increased through learning more about the things that bring fear and perhaps negativity into our lives. If we are afraid of someone because he or she has a different religion than our own, we can read more about that person’s religion or simply ask him or her politely about his or her beliefs.

A self-defense class can help reduce our trepidation over walking alone in a parking garage or exiting a subway or train onto a dimly lit platform. (Please note: For those choosing to carry mace, please purchase a canister with a thumb trigger to reduce the risk of shooting oneself with mace.)

If someone is afraid of guns, a firearms familiarity class can help reduce that fear. This worked for me personally and helped build my confidence as well. My firearms instructor encourages anyone living in a home in which firearms are used for protection to take a firearms familiarity course to reduce the potential of accidental shootings in the home.

To help strengthen our communities, we can start by paying it forward and flooding our communities with good deeds. Typically, one good deed will snowball into many good deeds.

Whenever there is a mass shooting or a natural disaster, blood and plasma supplies can quickly be depleted or exhausted. Those who can donate blood or plasma are encouraged to donate regularly and at times of great need. Currently, federal law still prohibits gay men from donating blood.

America’s Blood Centers is North America’s largest network of non-profit community blood centers, with more than 600 blood donation collection sites. On their website, people wishing to donate blood can locate a center within 50 miles of their zip code.

For those who wish to donate money to aid victims of violence or of a disaster, please investigate the charity before handing over any donations. Not all charities are created equally and some are scams designed to take advantage of the generosity of others. Charity Navigator  and Charity Ratings give detailed information about individual charities and how they use donations.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to add to the positivity in our lives and to strengthen in our communities. Local food banks and pantries, soup kitchens for the homeless, animal shelters and elementary schools typically need volunteers on a regular basis. Newspapers often list these organizations in their community news sections. LinkedIn members can browse help wanted ads for organizations who are in need of skilled volunteers. A simple Google search can lead a potential volunteer to a non-profit in need.

For those who wish to give back to their communities on a frequent basis, becoming a steward of a Little Free Library may provide them with a wonderful way to do just that. These libraries are based on the honor system. The basic idea is to take a book and/or leave a book from these small, mostly yard-based libraries. Registered libraries are mapped on the Little Free Library site for ease of discovery by library patrons.

For the more social among us, hosting a block party or an outdoor gathering for neighbors can help bring a community together. A themed pot luck, such as build-your-own-nachos, can ensure attendees enjoy a complete meal during the party while staying within a budget.

No matter what we do with our lives, we should lead them with dignity and positivity. Our race, our gender, our religion or lack therefore and our sexual orientation should not make us targets of hate. Sadly, in some cases, it does.

It is up to each one of us to change that scenario. We should treat one another with respect and watch out for one another as we build strength within each of us and within our communities.