How Love Trumped Murder
“WE HAVE TO GIVE LOVE TO THE PEOPLE WE THINK DESERVE IT THE LEAST” Aaron Stark
Have you seen Aaron Stark’s Ted Talk? It’s a tear jerker! This guy stands alone on a bare stage admitting to the world that he almost became another mass shooter. At the age of 16 he was in such a state of despair the only thing he could imagine was finding a way to take as many lives as possible before turning the gun on himself.
While watching Aaron’s story, you can feel the pain that led him to the brink of becoming one of those kids whose pictures you see on the news.
It would have been a familiar scene: A tormented and disenfranchised teen filling the halls of yet another school or shopping mall with the blood of his peers as well as his own. But this time it didn’t happen. On the third day of a three-day wait for a gun, someone reached out in friendship. Suddenly, Aaron found the idea of living more appealing than that of killing and dying.
Aaron tells us how simple kindness saved the day: a friend who said, “Hungry? Want to share some food? Watch a movie?”
Not by a locked door, but by an open heart. Not by some sophisticated therapeutic approach backed by reams of data. Not by the watchful eye of armed and uniformed security personnel. Even though they might have saved the lives of Aaron’s intended targets, they would have destroyed his.
Simply by another kid who reached out.
How do you measure the sorrow that didn’t happen? The parents, siblings, friends and family members who weren’t bereaved?
Because one person stepped up to show love when it was their turn, Aaron is now a happy family man. And the guy who averted the shooting is still in his life. He was in the audience on the day of the talk.
I once had the privilege of seeing Maya Angelou speak in person. She talked about her favorite line from a 19th century African-American song: “When it looks like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.”
She often quoted these words and talked about people being rainbows for each other.
Here are the words she spoke in a 2011 appearance on “Oprah’s Master Class:”
“Imagine!” Dr. Angelou marveled. “I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds. I had a lot of clouds, but I had so many rainbows.” Dr. Angelou said she always carried these “rainbows” with her... “I bring everyone who has ever been kind to me…” she said. “Black, white, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American, gay, straight, everybody...The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud…be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”
Some people have to face overwhelming storms clouds when they’re too young to cope. What happens if they don’t find their rainbows? Aaron’s story leaves me with two conclusions: 1) These kids are worthy of compassion too, and 2) When someone shows them love, miracles can happen. Armed teachers or “see something say something” snitches aren’t the ultimate answers to youth violence. Such ‘solutions’ address the symptoms without getting at the cause. The root system feeding the cycle of suffering continues to grow and flourish.
Addressing the gun violence that plagues this country seems nearly impossible. Every attempt at conversation is either preaching to your own choir or hampered by polarization. Pro-gun Americans are passionate about their firearms. The constitution even seems to be on their side. Calls for a legislative response are often met with the rebuttal that guns are not the problem. There are other factors to blame: bullying or the mental and emotional health of the shooter. But let’s be real. Both Access to high-powered firearms and emotional problems have roles in the creation of killers. In Aaron’s words: “…if I’d possessed a rifle, I would have been a killer. If I’d known love, I would never have wanted a rifle.”
So, let’s pivot the conversation away from guns, and address the pain behind the violence. The power of love can save lives and transform them as well.
I’m grateful to Aaron and humbly honored to witness his courageous stand. He’s one more voice for love in a world where it’s desperately needed. I encourage you to watch his Ted Talk and share it widely. His story should go viral. But something even more important needs to happen. We need more people like his friend.
Will you join with me in spreading lovelight to all we meet? Together we can usher in the day when befriending our troubled kids will be more common than bullying them. The cultural change we so desperately need will take a formidable group effort and compelling social magnetism. I want us to make a pact. Let’s become rainbows.
I’m inspired by the words of an old union song, “Many stones can build an arch, singly none, and by union what we will can be accomplished still. Drops of water turn the mill, singly none.” Love is the greatest power in the universe.