*This piece is by Joanna Harader and is re-posted from her blog, Spacious Faith.
I struggle to know how to respond in the wake of the shooting at Pulse Nightclub. Fifty dead. Over forty hospitalized. Hundreds traumatized. Guns, again. A tragedy followed by anti-Muslim rhetoric, again. Beautiful queer bodies targeted for violence, again.
I feel grief. And horror. And despair. And anger.
I feel helpless. I feel like I should do something. But then all I do is turn up the radio to hear the latest update. Click on the article links where the words blur together—Orlando, dead, gunman, mass shooting, FBI—and the grief-stricken faces come into sharp focus.
I sit and listen. I sit and look. I sit and wonder what the hell is wrong with us and what I can possibly do in the midst of the mess.
I commend my colleagues who are organizing and attending vigils. I see them posting invitations on Facebook. I imagine them sending emails and making phone calls and gathering candles and writing prayers.
I have not managed anything so energetic. I lit our peace lamp at church yesterday. I am trying to get some words onto this page so they stop ricocheting around in my head. I join my prayers with the millions ascending.
It doesn’t feel like much.
Tonight I will do what I’ve been planning to do for months: I will help out with Vacation Bible School. At first, that didn’t feel like much either. The thought of beach balls and cheesy songs and skits featuring a crab puppet seemed like a frivolity I could hardly manage in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting, yet another attack on LGBTQ people.
Then I read this beautiful, challenging article by my friend Jay Yoder. And I saw my friend Stephanie Krehbiel’s Facebook post: “Homophobia in Islam and homophobia in Christianity is the same damn homophobia.”
And I’m starting to think that maybe helping with Vacation Bible School is the best possible response to the shooting. This week I have a chance to teach children that faith never means hate; that God created them and loves them just as they are; that every person they meet is worthy of their care and respect; that violence is never a good path.
This week I have a chance to counter any voices these children might have heard that suggest to them that the Bible and/or God and/or Jesus wants them to judge and hate people for who they are or how they dress or who they love. And I have a chance to do it while wearing a fabulous foam sun visor with sea animal stickers on it.
I think I’ll add a rainbow to my visor and dedicate every corny song, every silly dance, every messy craft project, every word of hope and love and life this week to the victims and survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.