First, I love you, and you don’t know what that means. I know this because I asked you, “What do you mean when you say, ‘I love you’ to me?” Let me tell you.
The way you do things makes me smile: writing your name, the way you say “ma-ma,” how you organize your little shoes, how you call my friends, Brittany and Charlotte, your “big sisters.”
That is love. Love is all the little things that make you EVIE. Remember when your class “flooded” you with love? When they all said things about you that make you special, things that they noticed that make them smile? They love you.
Nobody said they love you because you are white. Nobody said they love you because you go to a Jewish after-care program. Nobody said they love you because you are Latina. Nobody said they love you because you are American. Salvadoran. French. Russian. Floridian. Orlandoan. None of that matters.
I want to talk to you about love and hate, together. We cannot have just love. The world—ourselves—we must all have a light and dark balance. One day, people will say “all you need is love,” and that is beautiful, but it’s not true, for you cannot see light without darkness. Remember when you asked why you couldn’t see all the stars in during the day? It doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Moments of darkness make us find ways to find light, and if we can’t find it, we make it. In dark times, people come together, to make light, to share light.
Remember in “The Neverending Story?” The Nothing. The Nothing is hate and fear…it’s the Dark Side in “Star Wars.” That is hate and darkness. And the “Mystics,” the gentle creatures, they are the lightness, but you need both. You need balance. I’m beginning to think maybe we watch too many movies, kiddo.
Here is the third and tricky part, Genevieve, my little 5-year-old. People are amazing and they can do great things. They can also do awful, terrible, bad things. That’s what happened this weekend in our fun, awesome hometown of Orlando. Down by the Target with the escalator that’s only for shopping carts (our favorite part of Target), next to the Dunkin Donuts we love—somebody fired a gun. Actually, they fired many, many times.
There is a dance place called Pulse, where adults go to have fun. I’ve been there, and you would love the lights and the music. It’s open very late, way past your bedtime. For a lot of people, this is a place where people make friends who love them just for who they are. And, in the middle of the music, in the middle of the dancing and the lights, a man came in with a gun and shot people.
Here is a number: 49. That’s how many people died. Now, let’s multiply that by two…that’s 98. He hurt 98 people. I will give you a moment, go ahead and count to 98. So how exactly did he hurt 98 people?
That’s how many mommies and daddies are devastated (that means really, really, really sad—like when you can’t breath or talk or walk or even get out of bed because your sadness weighs so much). And, if every soul (that is what we will call each person who died, because that is what is left) has 50 friends, that is 2,450 people who are also devastated. That is a lot of sad people.
Why did he go in there? Because this man was full of darkness, of hate, and he didn’t like that the dance place, Pulse, is a place where the LGBTQ community feels safe. See, now I have to explain LGBT to you: Lesbian (like Nana Kelley and Linda), Gay (like Z), bisexual (like Xenia) and Transgender (like Uncle Grant).
I bet you didn’t know Uncle Grant had another name like “transgender?” I know it’s never come up. I know we’ve never talked about it. I know they have always have simply been Nana Kelley and Uncle Grant (who has the same birthday as you!), Z, and Xenia. Remember, none of those things matter about people. It doesn’t matter if a girl loves a girl, or a boy loves a boy or a girl loves a boy. It doesn’t matter. You know what matters? It matters if a person is nice to you. It matters if a person stands up for you. And, it matters if YOU are nice and if YOU stand up for people—all people.
And sometimes, you will have to stand up for people who will say things that you may not agree with, but you will still be nice.
Now, here is the last part. Let’s go back to the 98 mommies and daddies. They loved their children, who were shot in Pulse, in a place where they felt safe and free. And, their friends loved them.
So you see, even though those 98 bodies are gone, their souls are still with friends and family. All the little things: They way they laughed, the way they spoke, how they wrote their names, how they organized their shoes—all those little things will be treasured by their families and friends.
I want you to know that what happened here, in Orlando, where we live and go to school and work. I don’t want you to be scared. Yes, there is blood on the streets and sidewalk. Yes, there are bullet holes in the walls, cars and pavement. But, the rain will wash the blood away and fix the walls and the spirit and memory of those souls will help us remember to love.
Every day, we will love. And the bad guy in this story, the Man with the Gun, we will find a way to find love for him, too. He was a kid like you once. But, somewhere, somehow, he got dark, Evie, and hate found him and enveloped him. And that’s why it’s important to love people who you can see are mean, because it means their light and dark sides are battling. Love will help them. That’s your job.
So, don’t be scared to be yourself and don’t be scared to live with the people you love, and who love you. I want you to go out of your way to love people, to make time for people. Love will always, always be brighter than darkness.
That’s why you can see the stars, tiny as they are, even in the middle of the night.