"write the stories you hold most true..."
Last night, I watched thousands come together to remember strangers. I watched the devoted sway to their prayers, call out in respect and blessing. I watched the outsiders, the foreigners, haphazardly cover their heads in confusion, shift restlessly for the words to be in English, play on their cellphones in the fading candlelight.
As an outsider, broadcasting this community vigil around the globe, I looked like every other (mostly disrespectful) reporter trying to get a shot. But I am not interested in sound bytes and money shots. Having packed my headscarf, and covered my shoulders, I wanted to offer trust for a deeper reason. I went for the stories.
Six humans. Six innocent deaths. Six lives.
Six million stories.
And a seventh life, the one we may never understand, still kept in the silent shadows everywhere except mainstream media.
For years, I have watched gun violence erupt across the world. Growing up in a house that relied on duck and deer hunting for a large part of our food supply, I learned to shoot at an early age. I learned to shoot well. I had almost unlimited access to firearms. And I was taught to respect weapons.
Listening to the vigil, looking out at hundreds of Sikhs and thousands of community members, I am curious about one story I have yet to be heard told.
When did we lose our ability to respect human life, and to respect the tools we can use for good -- not just for harm?
My family still relies on hunting for food. And I still know it is wrong to shoot people. But I am struggling deeply with the story behind the story, the place where one man lost sight of humanity and saw the world only through the a scope lens. Where is this story?
One beautiful friend of mine travels the world of conflict zones, listening and gathering stories and sharing stories of her own. When I reflect on the unspoken stories of this one tragedy, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of stories she must carry. How do we balance the stories of loss with the stories of survival?
Today, I am left with more questions than answers as I relive the sensory details of last night's vigil: the heavy beat of the prayer music, the smell of burning cotton and paraffin, the vibrant colors of turbans and headscarves, the wail of survivors--of families--in the darkness.
I can look past the words spoken (some profound, some inappropriate). I can look past the reporters who refused to cover their heads. I can look past the mosquitoes at my ankles and the strangers focused on their cellphones and not their neighbors in grieving.
But I cannot look past the raw truth that plagued me as I tried to sleep: we are still separate.
This is still a Sikh tragedy, not a human tragedy. This is still the act of a "radical man," not the product of a culture that divides, that breeds hate for "the other," that comes together for photo opportunities and news interviews. This is still an experience that will have neighbors fighting over the role of weapons in our society, but will not inspire our elected officials to ask the hard questions about gun violence.
And so, four days after this hate crime, twenty-four hours after witnessing a vigil that both moved and confounded me, I am left seeking the truth in my own stories, remembering my encounters, and valuing my lessons.
One of the vigil's speakers, the son of the temple president who was a shooting victim, told us all of a Sikh principle: fear none, and frighten none.
Fear none, and frighten none.
Tonight, I go to sleep with these words in my heart. How can I bring this principle into my own life? What can I learn from his, and this community-wide, loss?
How can YOU live this principle of fear none, and frighten none in your life?