“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime…” — Khaled Hosseni
My mom has always loved a good hurricane. Growing up in Florida, we had our fair share, and with each round of storms she would shutter the windows, stock extra supplies, and hunker down with books and puzzles. I used to think she liked the excuse to miss work and catch up on her tabloids, but now I realize that it wasn’t just more leisure time she looked forward to, but rather, the silver lining that always appeared after the storm had gone.
Of course she wouldn’t root for death and destruction, just Mother Nature’s cathartic cleanse that forced people to count blessings and hold loved ones close. She liked to see people come together and lend a hand, or a generator. She liked gathering in the street to cook up everyone’s perishable items in case the power was out for another week.
Disasters bring people together and force them to rely on the goodness of mankind. It’s the greater force’s way of snapping us out of our electronic bubbles, imminent anxieties and past depressions, and reintroducing us to one another. My mom liked hurricanes because we were made to once again recognize how temporary and uncertain our lives all were, but rejoice in the silver lining that we were all in it together.
It’s difficult to see a silver lining in last weekend’s terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It’s complicated to even look for a silver lining because it can feel like we are cheapening the lives lost or glazing over a terrible tragedy with good sentiments and well wishes.
We need to feel pain, to mourn, to ask questions, to even blame someone in order to make sense of it all. But once the grief period has passed, we’re often still left with a sense of emptiness, confusion, and even fear that permeates our daily activities. So, now what? Do we keep going, restlessly anticipating yet another mass shooting, devastating attack, or heartbreaking piece of news to reach our souls and once again, crush our spirits?
Yes. Unfortunately we do, because there is no other choice. Sadly, violence has become commonplace in our world. Hate and intolerance have become messages all too easily spread. But there is a way to make things good again and it begins with you.
After the Sandyhook Elementary School shooting, journalist Ann Curry encouraged the public to perform 26 acts of kindness in honor of the 26 victims. The acts were categorized and promoted under #26Acts and people ran with it, promoting positivity and genuine acts all over the country. From simple kindnesses, like buying coffee for the next person in line, to larger acts, like donating thousands of dollars to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, positivity began to turn despair into hope.
Blogger Nhi Hoang participated in #26Acts and spread a positive message through little kindnesses scattered about her town. She promoted these acts on Facebook in hopes of convincing others to do the same. It worked. From passing out Publix gift cards to buying strangers coffee, Nhi started a “Pay It Forward” effect.
Now, Nhi has taken this same format along with others and applied it to the Orlando Shooting, starting a #49Acts in hopes of spreading a positive message to encourage and strengthen others.
“When the Orlando shooting happened, I felt so emotionally numb. Scrolling through my newsfeed, I saw statuses upon statuses. I thought, what could happen if these statuses actually turned into actions?” Nhi says.
She took it upon herself to find out.
Nhi knows there won’t be a monumental shift from secretly leaving scratch off tickets on people’s windshields. She knows candy canes won’t change gun laws. However, she believes that spreading a message of love and tolerance through small acts of kindness to each person you come across is a way to increase positivity and acceptance across the board.
“I think a lot of these tragedies stem from hatred and ignorance. By being kind to those you don’t know, you never know what kind of difference you could be making,” she says.
“On a smaller scale, you could just be brightening a stranger’s day. On a larger scale, you could be changing someone’s mind about suicide or even violence.”
In addition to staying upbeat amidst our daily struggles, retaining and spreading that positivity can be a huge task each time a new tragedy occurs. Often times we want to throw in the towel and focus on only our personal struggles and ourselves. In situations like this, there is no silver lining to look for, so it’s up to us to make our own.
“I remind myself that all the time, and as cliché as it is, life is 99 percent how you react to it. If you react poorly, you perpetuate the negativity. I’m not always positive, trust me, but I notice that when I am, I better my life and the lives of those around me,” Nhi says.
We know that being nice feels good, but how many of us actually take the steps to consciously do a small kindness each day? I know I don’t, but I’m going to start. Senseless violence won’t ever be eradicated. But we can take this #49Acts mentality and apply it to our own communities to live in a better place, one corner at a time.
While the Orlando shooting changed the course of many lives in one night, your actions could also do such, but for the better. A flower may seem like just a flower to you, but to someone else, it could be the missing piece they need to turn their entire life around.
To join along with others like Nhi join the #49 Acts Facebook Group to see what you can do, and join a community that is giving back.