Ironically, I was in bed last Sunday night reading a book about the challenges of America, when my 18-year-old daughter pushed open my bedroom door and blurted: “Have you heard what’s happening in Vegas? There’s a man with a machine gun who’s killing people at a concert!”
As I rushed to put on some clothes I caught myself whispering, “No, no, not another tragedy.”
I ran downstairs and flipped on the TV, where coverage had started only moments earlier. The first thing I saw was a reporter stopping wandering people and asking what they saw. Their zombie-like responses showed they were still in shock.
One shirtless guy in a cowboy hat had been splashed with blood, which prompted the reporter to ask if he had been injured. Unaware of the crimson stains, he semi-stuttered that the blood wasn’t his own but came from a victim he had helped to carry to safety.
Another guy who looked to be in his mid-20s, when asked where his shirt was, stumbled and stammered out the reply that he took off his shirt to cover the faces of the dead.
Neither seemed to comprehend nor consider the paradox: the worst of men and the best of men … utter grace amidst utter evil. I glanced at my daughter who just sat there clutching a pillow to her chest and cried.
Our nation has been repeatedly ravaged by numerous shootings of individuals, police officers and mass groups of people. On top of that, we are plagued with natural disasters, racial division, political upheaval and even nuclear missile threats from abroad.
We are a nation filled with unrest, a people who have been saturated by every tragedy as it has been plastered across our televisions, newspapers, internet and social media. We grieve for those brothers and sisters who suffer, we are repulsed and sickened by the depraved perpetrators, and we are inspired by the gallant saviors who courageously disregard their own safety at the expense of complete strangers.
Lights shine brightest on the darkest of nights and unknown heroes arise in the days of adversity.
Television networks have given airtime to those champions who scampered through gunfire in Las Vegas to help, just as they did to those who waded through floods and storm damage recently in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. But we long for more; we desire to be quenched from their personal wells that drip with honor and valor.
In those heroes who willingly trod at death’s door, we see what is good in America and a portrait of who we can and should be. It’s why, now more than ever, we need less blame, politicizing and villains. We need more exposure to the common people who epitomize courage in the midst of cowardice – those who give us hope when all hope seems to be lost.
As I watched the news coverage in the hours after the carnage in Las Vegas, I couldn’t peel my eyes from the television. By the time my TV screen went dark after 4 a.m., the details were slim but there was less focus on the murderer and more on his victims.
Those in Las Vegas were exhibiting a new kind of protest, the kind everybody watching was uniting around: a protest against death, terrorism, evil and division. They were physically, verbally and morally objecting to the mayhem that sought to instill fear, hate and darkness. Their resistance converted into shielding others from bullets, calming the wounded as they were in the throes of death and carrying victims to safety.
And let’s never forget our brave law enforcement officers – the lately vilified men and women in blue who didn’t hesitate or vacillate when called upon to apprehend a demonic madman who was mowing down the innocent.
The book of John in the Bible states that there is a type of love that is greater than any other: it is the kind that embraces death so that others might have life. It is the rare, unconventional love that is dispensed independent of merit, worth or obligation but is gifted willingly because it comes from the purest of place … self-sacrifice.
This example has been written about for over 2,000 years and contains our greatest hope and purpose for eternal peace, purpose and brotherhood.