A few weeks ago, my wife and I drove into Chicago to watch a Red Stars soccer game. That morning, news broke of the massacre. All day I kept repeating to myself the phrase “largest mass shooting in US history” to somehow jolt me out of a hazy disbelief that a hate crime against innocent people – any of which could have been my wife and I should our stadium have been the target – just happened. And it hit really close to home. What if it was us? Then we would be leaving behind three innocent children under five years old with the horrific loss of their parents. Because of what? Because we love each other. And that’s why all those people died – because of Love. Now hold that thought.
There’s no doubt that I’ve felt intense moments of shock, disbelief, grief, and fear over the Orlando Shooting. I cried during the 30 seconds of silence requested of all attendees at the soccer game. I tear-up when I think about how someone could feel so much hate inside themselves that they literally snap and do the unthinkable.
Within hours, Orlando was all over the news. My inbox and my social feeds were inundated with articles, news reports, and personal stories about how people were dealing with the attack. And there was one word in particular that kept showing up:Devastated.
The morning following the attack, I received an email from the #HumanRightsCampaign. The opening line reads, “We are devastated.” Such a powerful phrase. And yet, the word “devastated” implies a defeat. A quick search for synonyms populated results like “bankrupt”, “finished”, “ruinded” and “drained”. A loss so great, that you are taken to your knees. And this is exactly what terror is designed to do. No doubt, we must allow ourselves to feel grief and every other emotion that naturally occurs in good natured people. But we have the power, through our language, to choose words and phrases that turn this sadness around. And quite literally, we can take a word with the complete opposite meaning and start using that word as a way to fight back against the effects of terrorism.
What is the opposite of Devastation?Strength. Power. Unity.
Hours and days and months after Orlando, I still have to show up for work. I still have to take care of my children, my business, and the bills, and in order to do that, I need to take care of myself. And I can’t afford to dwell on loss – I owe it myself and I owe it to all of those people who lost their lives in the name of Love. I owe it to their memory to stand a little taller, to honor myself and to choose to be strengthened, not devastated, by this event.