Recently, I wrote about how it was hard to conjure a lot of deep emotion for the victims of the Orlando attack, or really any other mass tragedy. Who could have guessed that circumstances would arise so soon that presented the other side of the coin so tragically?
Also in Orlando, a two-year-old little boy was pulled into the water by an alligator. He was just playing in the lagoon at a Disney resort. The happiest place on earth. Who would have thought what danger awaited him? One moment he was playing, the next his father was trying desperately to wrench him from the beast’s jaws, to no avail. Little Lane Graves died tragically.
I heard the story in detail on a news podcast on my commute to work one day. And I cried.
A few days later, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I saw some posts from the Star Trek Instagram asking followers’ thoughts and prayers to be with the family and friends of Anton Yelchin, the young actor who plays Pavel Chekov in the new movies. Curious, I googled for more information, and found he had died just that morning. How? His friends found him pinned between his car and his brick mailbox. They say he left the car running in the driveway, got out, and the car rolled back and trapped him. He wasn’t much older than me.
I read the story in news articles online and I cried. My heart remained heavy throughout the day.
These are terrible tragedies. It’s hard to imagine many worse, more unexpected horrors. But only two people died. In the shooting at the Orlando nightclub, fifty did. Why does my heart ache more for one toddler and one actor than fifty humans?
It’s like I said. Fifty is too many. It’s a mass of unnamed humanity. Lane Graves has a face. I’ve seen it in pictures, his precious baby smile as he was cuddled in his mother’s arms. He has a father who fought to drag him from danger and failed. Anton Yelchin has a face. Millions have seen it up on a screen and felt they knew him.
I wish I could look into the eyes of every victim of the mass shooting, to learn their name, their loves, even their favorite food. But if I could, my heart would break with pain. I’m finite. My love has limits. It’s like there are dozens of concentric circles–I care for all the people of the world in theory, I care for the people of my country by association, I care for the people of my city through shared culture, I care for the people that I know by allowing the barest details of their lives to enter into mine, I care for my friends more closely, my family more closely still, and those closest to my heart I love intimately. Because in truth, we cannot love what we do not know. The more we know, the better we can love.
I may not know the faces, names, joys, sorrows, pasts, loves, and pain of each and every person killed by the shooter in Orlando, but there is Someone who knit each of them together in the womb, who knows their every heartbeat. My sorrow over Lane Graves and Anton Yelchin may fade as I forget their faces in the sea of others, but He counts the hairs of their heads and His thoughts towards them are without number. And even those closest to me, boyfriend, family, dearest friends, times come when there are things I cannot know, and therefore things I cannot love even if I was purely selfless.
But to Him, every heart is an open book, one that He never stops reading.
To Him, we all have faces.