Teaching Love and Tolerance in the Wake of Tragedy

My heart is heavy from the horrific news of yet another mass shooting in this country. I crawled into my oldest daughter’s bed last night and watched her sleep.

As she sighed, I thought of the 50 mothers who will never see their children again. I thought of the 50 mothers who went to bed, thinking they could talk to their children come morning. The mothers who believed their children were safe. As I watched my daughter breathe, I thought of the 50 mothers whose children breathed their last breaths at a gunman’s hands. I thought of my own fear of losing my children to the senseless acts of violence that many Americans have come to accept as commonplace.

As a mother, I carry so many fears for my children in my heart. Why, when I drop my daughter off at preschool, does my mind race, thinking this could be the last moment I ever see her beautiful face again? Why should any mother have to fear for her child’s safety in places that should be sanctuaries?

As my daughter tossed and rolled over in bed, I thought about the different communities involved in the mass shooting — LGBT, Muslim — and of the hatred, xenophobia, and intolerance that has spread on social media and in the news. I thought about my daughter’s unbelievably talented preschool teacher, who is also Muslim. I thought about my LGBT friends who had been out celebrating pride month. And as my mind raced and I struggled to comprehend what just seems incomprehensible, my daughter’s eyelids fluttered, and I realized my face was covered in hot, salty tears.

I’m tired of being afraid. And I’m tired of hatred and violence being seen as viable solutions.

Instead of fear, I choose to continue to teach my children the importance of love. To guide my children to be compassionate, tolerant, and kind. To ask questions about different cultures, religions, and races. To empathize with those who are marginalized by the status quo. To stand up to a bully. To realize that differences in how we dress, worship, or choose to love should be shared, welcomed, and celebrated. To see that beneath our differences, we are all still human beings. That hatred is nothing but fear of the unknown, and in the end, it only begets misunderstanding and violence.

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My sixth grade teacher always told my class, “You don’t have to like everyone, but you have to love everyone.” Of all the lessons I learned in school, I carry that one with me in my actions every day. And as I stare at my daughter’s sleeping face, I hope it is the one lesson she will value and put into daily practice.

Let us end the cycle of hatred and violence. Let us all teach our children to love.

 

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