By Lori Welch Brown
Shining a Light on Darkness
Like me, I’m sure your heart is breaking over the recent attack in Las Vegas. For the life of me, I cannot get my brain around how someone could open fire into a crowd of innocent people. How did it happen? WHY did it happen? And how can we keep it from happening again? Those are the bazillion dollar questions to which none of us seem to have answers, and it is disturbing on so many levels.
The Wednesday after the shooting, I boarded a plane to Florida to check in on my 87 year old dad who had taken a fall which resulted in a broken pelvic bone. My husband XXL and I generally travel together, but this was to be a quick trip just to help out so I went solo. I was a bit nervous and anxious to start with as it was my first trip since having surgery myself, and I just wasn’t feeling great. The day I arrived, my dad’s significant other and I butted heads—as has been known to happen. We are both strong, independent and somewhat controlling women who happen to love and care for the same man, albeit in different ways. The argument ended with her storming out of my dad’s room. She was stressed and overwhelmed. I was angry and frustrated.
That night I went back to my hotel room and although XXL was only a phone call away, I felt very alone. Alone with my thoughts in a hotel room. My head was spinning in a million different directions. Mentally tired and physically exhausted, my mind went to dark places. If she and I couldn’t get along now, what would happen if/when my dad was critically ill and/or near the end? What if this WAS the beginning of the end? What if there were lifesaving or critical care decisions to be made? I tried to distract myself with the hotel TV, but my mind wouldn’t let me. Modern Family wouldn’t be enough to pull me back to my happy place. My usual balancing connections, my husband and my fur babies, were hundreds of miles away. I couldn’t glance over at the picture of my mom on my nightstand for comfort. I couldn’t wrap myself up in my favorite fleece blanket that has all my familiar smells. I couldn’t shuffle out to my kitchen and put on a pot of chamomile tea to calm my nerves or soak in my tub. All I had was that empty hotel room and the few things I had packed.
I walked into the hotel bathroom, grabbed my lavender oil and put a drop on my wrists to help me relax and went back to bed, but sleep would not come. The negative thoughts were like Nascar drivers on a track, whirring, spinning, and crashing out of control. I could hear every hotel noise. The nothingness noises of an occasional door opening and closing, the hum of the air conditioning. In that moment, all I could think about was the Vegas gunman, Paddock, alone in that hotel room with the darkest thoughts imaginable for three long days plotting to kill. What noises did he hear? Who was he thinking about? What dark thoughts were racing through his mind? What kind of pain had he endured in his lifetime that would make him want to inflict so much pain on the world? Was he watching something on the TV that kept fueling his anger? Three days alone with those dark thoughts. Three days to build and plan and plot. Three days to envision the senseless murders of countless people. I began to wonder who was in the hotel rooms on either side of me. Were they happy people on vacation with their families or deranged psychopaths? I wanted to get up out of the darkness, knock on their doors and say, “Hi, I’m Lori. I just need to look in your eyes for a moment and know you. I’m your neighbor. I am a fellow human being and we are connected by more than this hallway.”
We may never know what was going on in the dark recesses of Paddock’s mind, but I know that whatever he was hoping to achieve, he failed. In the end, he brought people together and made them stronger. He may have caused unbearable loss, but he made heroes out of every day people and turned strangers into lifelong friends. Love wins. Every time. We are not only Vegas strong, we are World strong. We cannot be divided. If you are walking this Earth, we are connected, you and I. I want to hear about your dark thoughts and understand your pain. I want to comfort you in whatever way I can and not judge you—which will be hard because I can be “judgy” like that. I am not a religious person, but I need the religion of community and connection right now. Let us not be alone with our dark thoughts. Throw open the door, step out into the brightness and then reach out and offer a hand to pull your neighbor out with you. Spread the light. Spread the love. One light at a time.
This day and every day, I’m grateful for all of our service men and women, as well as all the first responders and the everyday heroes all around us.
Happy Thanksgiving. Let your light shine through this holiday season. Let’s make a commitment to never meet a stranger and make everyone a neighbor.