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Look for the Helpers: The Case for Optimism and Hope

“When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Fred Rogers

Around 2 AM Sunday morning, a man walked into a popular nightclub in Florida and opened fire. When police ended his rampage, the man had murdered 49 people and injured 53 more. Not a single person in that nightclub walked through the doors that night expecting to lose their life.

The country woke Sunday morning to news of the worst mass public shooting in American history. Emergency responders have told of the harrowing sound of cellphones ringing incessantly as loved ones tried to reach the ones they lost. Joshua Corsa, an Orlando surgeon, shared a photo of his shoes. “They are brand new, not even a week old,” he says. His new shoes are stained red with the blood of the victims he fought to save.

The shooting at the Pulse nightclub has left its mark in history, and those lost there will never be forgotten. As word spread through social media, I saw many people sharing the same sentiment: what sort of world do we live in?

A damned beautiful one.

Despite temperatures soaring to the high 90s, the Orlando community responded in a force unseen since 9/11. Lines stretched around blocks. A reporter from NPR stated that there were 700 people at one blood bank alone. Thousands of people stood in the burning sun to donate much-needed blood to the victims. One man waited seven hours because his type O-negative blood could be given to anyone. Those unable to donate blood handed out food and water to those waiting in line.

A group in Chicago sent a pack of Golden Retrievers to the Orlando area, knowing the presence of a four-legged friend can break down emotional walls and help people heal.

Animal welfare groups stepped up to offer temporary sheltering and pet sitting to furry family members.

In his first show following the 9/11 attacks, Jon Stewart addressed the audience with, “I wanted to tell you why I grieve, but why I do not despair.” That is America now. The country stands together, and we grieve. America grieves for its lost sons and daughters, for those torn away too soon by a man consumed with hatred. But through that grief, hope exists. Despair cannot be allowed to take hold.

The people who would commit such atrocities and crimes are filled with hatred. They exist in chaos.

It is easy to give into to despair, to wonder about the point of going on in the face of such evil. As children, we were told stories of good versus evil and love conquering hatred. Those aren’t just stories. This nation’s response to this act is proof of that.

Love and concern has poured out of every corner of the country. Support has come in every form — blood and monetary donations, food for the helpers, and even simple hugs given to those who had seen too much. And it’s not just America. Tel Aviv, Berlin, Vancouver…all over the world, vigils have been held. Buildings have been lit in rainbow colors.

Joshua Corsa, the doctor mentioned earlier, said this: “For on June 12, after the worst of humanity reared its evil head, I saw the best of humanity come fighting right back. I never want to forget that night.”

Shroud yourself in hope. Though evil acts continue to take place, global crime is lower than it has ever been. More people are living happier lives than ever before. Human rights continue to take great strides forward. It’s easy to lose sight of the good in the world, because good acts do not make great headlines.

At one point, when I had begun to fear for the state of things, someone said to me, “The reason we read and react to terrible events is because they are news. They’re abnormal. They’re not the normal state of things in the world.”

It’s true. The truest, simplest, most basic fact of life is this: that hatred will never overcome love.

Photo: Governor Wolf/Flickr

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Patrick Hearn

Patrick is a Columbus-based travel and tech writer and the author of Chasing Memories. Find him at Patrick-Hearn.com or at his travel blog, Voyager's Quill.