[THANK YOU to everyone who took the Reader Survey! The giveaway is closed, but the survey is still open if you'd still like to give feedback. I know a lot of you would like shorter articles and I hear you! This one is lengthy because I have a lot to say, but I promise I'll cut them down in the future.]
For those of you who don't want all the details, here's the TL;DR version of this post:
Gun violence sucks. I'm scared and saddened, and I want to do something so I made these pins and I'm donating 50% of the proceeds to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.
Generally I don't write about politics or current events, but a lot of you who took the reader survey said you'd like "more personal stuff," so I'm stepping out of my comfort zone today.
I hesitate to write about personal things or beliefs because, in all honesty, I fear losing readers -- not because I want more readers, but because I want everyone to have an opportunity to learn more about living positively in the present. I worry that if I write too much about personal beliefs (or potentially feather-ruffling topics like money, politics, religion, or sex), people will turn away from the site and miss out on the benefits of living a positive, present life.
But it's too hard for me to remain quiet right now.
FEELING THE FEAR
Positively Present isn't (and will never be) a place for political discussions, but recent news -- particularly the Orlando massacre, the murder of Christina Grimmie, and a deadly shooting at my local mall -- has deeply impacted me. While don't know anyone involved in these tragedies, I can't stop thinking about how it must feel to lose a loved one for no reason other than the hate-fueled actions of a mentally unstable man.
It keeps me up at night, my mind racing with thoughts like, Why did this happen? When will it happen to someone I know? What can be done? How can we fix this? These thoughts plague my days, causing me to be fearful in places I should feel safe.
At the post office yesterday (shipping self-love stickers!) a man in front of me began a heated argument with the postal worker behind the counter. Their voices raised and he called her a bitch, and my eyes immediately went to the waistline of his pants in search of a gun. I could feel the color drain from my face and my heart pound fast as I thought, He could have a gun. He could pull out a gun and start shooting us.
While these thoughts are not helpful (or present-minded!), they aren't entirely irrational. I have reason to be afraid. And that makes me sad. And mad.
I don't want to be afraid, and I don't want other people to be afraid either. What happened in Orlando has hit me hard. I can't pinpoint exactly why -- maybe it was the number of people killed or the fact that a community I feel part of, as an ally, was targeted. Or maybe, like so many American citizens, I've simply had enough.
Whatever the reason, this is the first mass-shooting that brought me to tears. Lying in my bed, reading Eddie Justice's last texts to his mother, tears streamed down my face and I knew I had to do something.
TAKING POSITIVE ACTION
In the aftermath of past mass shootings, I've been one of those saying, "We should do something!" But while saying "we," I really meant "someone else." Someone else should do something. Because, really, what could someone like me -- with no political connections and little extra money to donate -- actually do?
Taking action is hard, particularly when it's not clear what action should be taken. Do I want to restrict Americans' freedoms? No. Do I want to be able to go to the post office without fearing I might be murdered? Yes.
I still don't know what exactly should be done, but I know with certainty that two things lie at the heart of all mass shootings: hatred and guns. Regardless of how you feel about guns, you cannot deny that hate (served with a side of mental instability) is what pulls the trigger.
We need to lessen hate and create more love.
But how do we do that? We'll never eradicate hate, but just because we can't rid the world of it completely doesn't mean we should sit by complacently and watch it pelt bullets into the bodies of people at nightclubs and churches and malls and schools.
If we want things to change -- whether it's something personal or political -- we have to take some sort of action, however small.
LESS HATE, MORE LOVE PIN
When the news broke about Orlando, I was in the process of designing my first enamel pin. After I heard the news, I knew I could use the pin to make a difference. I switched the direction of my design and created the Less Hate, More Love pin.
The pin is not only a way raise money (50% of the proceeds will be donated to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence), but it also serves as a visual reminder that love is incredibly powerful. We need more of it. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
We cannot fight hate with more hate. We must fight with love. It's my hope that this little pin will remind us of that every time we look at it.
ABOUT THE DONATION
Of course, love alone won't solve our problems. If we want change, I believe we have to start with education. We need all kinds of education to make this world a better place, but there are two things we need much more education on: hate and guns.
Hate is what I'd really like to tackle, but I'm starting small. After much research, I decided to donate to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, an organization making communities safer by translating research into policy.
The EFSGV works on policy development, supports policymakers and gun violence prevention advocates by drafting and implementing policy, influences the policymaking process by lobbying and educating policymakers, and works with community members to bring their voices to policymakers.
If you're not into the idea of a pin or want to donate directly, here's info on how to donate to EFSGV.
Whether or not you buy a pin or donate to (or even believe in) this cause, I hope this post reminds you that, if you want change, you have to do something. You might feel small, but, as Ronald Reagan once said, "We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone."
Doing something small is better than doing nothing at all. You can use your skills (whatever they might be!) to make a difference in whatever cause you believe in. Use your voice, your time, your money, and your resources to make a positive impact in the world.