Orlando Strong: Resilience & Strength

“On the road again” has become my mantra in recent weeks.

April began in Orlando where I delivered a keynote speech to a gathering of emergency responders, victim’s advocates and counselors whom responded to the Orlando Pulse shooting last year. I entered the hotel during a thunder and lightening storm and dark clouds. It seemed a fitting metaphor for what this group of professional helpers has endured.

The room was filled with close to 200 people. As I stepped to the podium to speak, I reflected that the thunder and lightning outside was very much like the thunderstorm occurring inside each of us who has stepped forward to support others impacted by violence, particularly communal violence.

I was deeply and profoundly touched by the stories of how this community responded to support those wounded physically, emotionally and spiritually. I resonated with deeply with the stories of selflessness and unwavering commitment of those in attendance and those who were in their offices, on the streets and otherwise continuing to serve the community.

I invited them to think of themselves as lighthouses – very special lighthouses. As mission driven people, we had chosen the work we do and find that the installation of hope and of light is deeply ingrained in the DNA of who we are. This commonality is the source of our relational resilience and the means for how we cope, how we live and how we serve.

Lighthouses sit steadily, steadfastly waiting to light the way, in the darkest of the nights, during the worst storms, their light shines steady and strong. They are built with a firm foundation and nurtured with love and abundant self-compassion and care. Everyone in that room had been a lighthouse during and after the pulse shooting.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness,
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

The First Responders are the Lighthouse of Peace whom stabilize us and the community. They help us to reconnect to safety. to order and are the fiercest protectors. Those who serve as victim advocates are a special kind of peace keeper – they are the ones who respond and sit with injured souls in their greatest suffering. Their light holds space in those first moments and throughout their journey of healing.

Counselors are the Lighthouse of Hope. They hold the space for the overcoming of suffering, until a survivor can reconnect to light and to hope. They too are steadfast in their presence, their strength and their commitment. They reflect light into the hearts of souls who have lost their way following this life-altering and forever changing act of violence.

The prosecutors, judges and victim’s advocates are the Lighthouses of truth and of justice. They accompany the wounded, honoring the seen and unseen signs of harm. They navigate alongside the wounded, supporting them in the shared search for a fair and just outcome.

Each of the Orlando Lighthouses served their community with honor and tended to their own wounds later. That’s the mission of these special types of lighthouse: serve others first and then serve myself.

I encouraged them to examine what is needed for their own healing and recovery. I offered them support in finding their way through the thunderstorm and will continue to be a lighthouse for this community.

As we left the hotel, the sun was shining through a break in the clouds.