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When hate rears its ugly head, turn toward love for healing, strength

Kerry Smooke, center left, and daughter Molly Feinberg, right center, attend a Shabbat morning service by Rabbi Chuck Diamond outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Nov. 3 in Pittsburgh. About 100 people gathered in a cold drizzle for what was called a “healing service” outside the synagogue that was the scene of a mass shooting the week before.
Kerry Smooke, center left, and daughter Molly Feinberg, right center, attend a Shabbat morning service by Rabbi Chuck Diamond outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Nov. 3 in Pittsburgh. About 100 people gathered in a cold drizzle for what was called a “healing service” outside the synagogue that was the scene of a mass shooting the week before. AP

On Oct. 27, I took my very excited daughter to her last fall Springer Academy class. While she took class, I had an exciting meeting with my friends at the Springer Film Institute about collaborating on an upcoming project. Afterward, we went to the Spooktacular on the 14th Street bridge. The kids played with dozens of other costumed children on the bounce houses. They received candy from smiling adults representing businesses and organizations from all over the city. We stopped for lunch on the way home, surprised to find my dad and grandmother eating at the very same restaurant. It ended up being a multigenerational meal, replete with love and happiness.

Then we got home. I put the kids down for a nap, checked Twitter, and learned that while we were having a peaceful, pleasant morning, the city of Pittsburgh was in shock and mourning. A mass murderer had robbed 11 people of their lives when he tore into Tree of Life Synagogue, spewed anti-Semitic vitriol and opened fire.

I was crestfallen. I was seething. I was sad. But one thing I wasn’t? Surprised. I’ve read too much history, lived too many years as a black woman with a diverse group of loved ones to believe that hate isn’t always around us, constantly threatening to attack. Hate does not surprise me. If it surprises you, it is high time to swallow the bitter pill. This is the world we live in.

The day then raised the question: what now? Yes, grieve. Yes, articulate your pain, fear and anger with thoughtfulness and care. Yes, go to the gym and throw weights around. Allow your body to express its own unique kinetic despair. I did all of those things. And I felt a little more stable on my feet for doing them.

Then the next day came, which was a lovely day with the family. And the Monday came, and the grind continued. The pain of the attack stung fresh that Monday. How can we just move on, business as usual, when these terrible crimes are plaguing our communities? How do we clock in and keep moving forward?

Then I remembered love. Just as acts of hate come as no surprise, acts of love should be just as expected. Acts of love can be just as monumental, and they should be all the more abundant. We may be on a hell of a roller coaster, but there is an ever-present mandate to hold one another up, to encourage, to forgive, to make each other laugh. Moving forward doesn’t have to mean ignoring the pain and walking away from it. It can mean responding to it by building joy, hope, and light everywhere we go. And it must mean that. It must.

Natalia Naman Temesgen is a playwright and professor of creative writing at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia.

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