Just about a month ago, we in Colorado were rocked by news of a deadly shooting incident in Aurora, during the premiere of the much-anticipated movie, The Dark Knight Rises. It appeared to be a premeditated act of violence against innocent, late-night moviegoers. A local politician later described it as “an incomprehensible act of hate.”
The national media coverage was intense, as were the initial shock and grief. For Coloradans, the incident was particularly painful. After all, it had happened “in our front yard,” and some of us had personal connections to victims or to first responders.
Many more of us in Colorado (and around the country) found new reasons to pray – for healing and forgiveness. And many of us discovered a renewed appreciation for life, for courage, for strength, for innocence, and yes, even for love. In his personal blog the day after the event, State Senator Mike Johnston had this to say:
“The answer is we love back. We live back. We deepen our commitments to all the unnumbered acts of kindness that make America an unrendable fabric. We respond by showing that we will play harder, and longer. We will serve more meals, play more games, eat more food, listen to more jazz, go to more movies, give more hugs, and say more ‘thank yous’ and ‘I love yous’ than ever before.”
As the details came out and the stories of heroism, kindness, and love were told, you might even say we as Coloradans began to be more grateful! Not for the event, of course, but for the supportive, healing responses of so many. We saw shock and grief turn to an appreciation for each other and a broader acknowledgment of mankind’s inherent goodness that drowned out the evil motives and acts of another.
In my own personal experience, I’ve found that sense of gratitude to be a powerful, healing force in times of physical or health crisis. For me, it’s much more than positive thinking. It’s all about a mental yielding to a Divine power beyond myself.
Just about the time our Colorado community began to heal from the pain of the shooting incident, the 2012 summer Olympic Games began, and we were blessed with an angel known to her teammates as “Missy the Missile” – a 17-year-old Olympic swimmer from Colorado named Missy Franklin. Her fresh and humble (and grateful to be there) response to the games captivated audiences around the world and was matched only by her five-medal (four of them gold and one from a world record) performance. She even went so far as to dedicate her races to the people of Colorado, in recognition of the heartbreak surrounding the shooting incident.
Watching her performance, I found myself repeating part of a poem called “Fulfillment,” by C. Christian Hoffman. It goes like this:
“As gold by fire is tested, its purity shown forth,
So cleansing fires of Truth may prove to man his native worth.”
What a contrast between the tragedy of that really dark night a month ago and the triumph of innocence and excellence expressed over the past two weeks!
And talk about gratitude. We’ve seen plenty of that at the summer Olympic Games in London: lots of appreciation for the venues and the volunteers, for coaches and teammates, for friends and family; gratitude for winning, for exceeding personal goals (or for just being there); and in many cases, recognition of a Higher power behind the human excellence. How about Missy’s tweet:
“Missy Franklin ?@FranklinMissy
I am so grateful for everything that has happened. God has blessed me with so much. Thank you so much for all the love and support!”
In recognizing and appreciating the good in others, we are cherishing what’s unique and special in them – and in ourselves. That kind of thinking improves our individual and collective performance. It restores and maintains health. It can become a way of life. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
So, as this year’s Summer Games come to an end, let’s all continue to “go for the gold”!