The shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last Wednesday has inspired in its aftermath far more than a political outcry for a conversation on gun control.
It has exposed the sheer, incomparable heart of the American people.
Seems to me the vast outpouring of emotional expression and acts of goodness and compassion can easily be overlooked amid overwhelming grief and political rancor.
But have a look at a handful of the uplifting snippets that didn't make the big headlines after Valentine's Day yet still say so much about who we are and how we come together in our darkest hours:
-- The morning after the shooting, composer Neal Morse wrote and published an acoustic song and produced an impromptu video of himself performing it. It's entitled “What If It Was Your Child?” Have a look and listen at the video on this page.
-- Elementary school students from Bangor, Me. sent 17 teddy bears, one for each grave and each with a victim's name emblazoned on it. At last check, the teddies were still en route.
-- A group called Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K-9 Comfort Dogs has deployed as many as 10 therapy or comfort dogs (all golden retrievers) to Florida from North Carolina, Tennessee and elsewhere to ease victims of Wednesday’s shooting. It’s not the first time this group of goldens has helped people recover from shooting tragedies. The dogs showed up on the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. And nearly 20 dogs traveled to Las Vegas after last fall’s mass shooting. The Illinois-based charity has a “staff” of about 100 dogs -- all golden retrievers.
-- The women of Sigma Delta Tau and the FSU Student Government Association came together to host a vigil in honor of those affected by the tragedy. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High sends more than 50 students to FSU every year. Sophia Giannone, president of the sorority, explained the event was about “what the community can do to try to pick up the pieces.”
-- The Florida Panthers wore special patches with "MSD" etched on them and decals of the school's mascot on the back of their helmets. Before the game Saturday night against the Flames, Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary observed a moment of silence. Before the team's next home game in Sunrise, the Panthers have a blood drive for the victims scheduled.
-- Orlando’s News 6 has partnered with the group Public Good to help people find reputable organizations pitching in to help. Says the TV station, it's part of a team effort with five organizations: Broward Health Foundation, Cure Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, the National Center for the Victims of Crime, and the American Red Cross. More info here.
-- A group of businessmen in Des Moines will meet Tuesday to discuss sending a work crew -- strictly volunteers -- to Douglas High School to remove all trace of damage done by gun shots and repaint the areas of the building suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz affected. It will be an offer made to the School Board.
-- A parents organization in Dallas has started "Tell Us What We Can Do," a movement to grant the wishes of Parkland victims' families -- in fact, all families of children whose lives were ended in a school by a terrorist. "We're just getting organized," group leader Kay Stropp told Sunshine State News. "We thought these families in Florida each would have different needs at this time, things that could help ease them through, knowing there are fellow Americans out here pulling for them. That's the role we want to fill."
Despite these and countless other outpourings of kindness, there is a difference in Americans' reaction to Parkland compared to other shooting tragedies.
It's determined outrage. It's anger and frustration that no gun-control law -- not even common-sense government interference -- was there to stop a determined shooter giving out all the signals that he was capable of such an atrocious act.
This time even some clergy are admitting prayer vigils and a nation's sympathy would not be enough.
Jim Kast-Keat, pastor of Riverside Church in New York, put it this way: "Too often we find ourselves calling ourselves into our holy huddles, filled with our thoughts and prayers, while the world goes to hell around us. As cheesy as it might sound, I want people to stop going to church and I want them to start being the church. I want them to stop praying with their thoughts and start praying with their bodies and their votes and their voices."
Reach Nancy Smith @firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith