Ten years ago, my family and I visited Charleston, South Carolina for the first time and found it to be one of the friendliest cities. It all started when we arrived at our hotel, where we received a warm welcome from the doorman, Charles. The next day, when we were out, exploring the city, we encountered a woman who gave us a palmetto rose and recommended that we visit the battery, located at the southern tip of the city, facing Fort Sumter. We followed her recommendation and got to see a spectacular view of the waterfront.
On our last day, while packing up the car to go home, Charles asked us for our address, which we shared with him. Over the next several months, we received a few cards and gifts from Charles. In his correspondence, he told us that families like ours are the reason he loves his job and told us about his family and he even included a picture. Each card was signed with his name along with a Bible verse that he recommended. The gifts included some two dollar bills and clothing from the College of Charleston. The friendship he created through his correspondence has meant a lot to me and exemplifies the southern hospitality that people often talk about.
When I heard about the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston that killed nine people, I was shocked that such a hateful act could occur in such a friendly and loving city. I was relieved to find out that none of the friendly people I met in Charleston lost their lives and thought about the horrible feeling of loss and heartbreak the Charleston community must be feeling. People should never have to experience such terror and violence just for being who they are and living their daily lives.
It is truly remarkable the way the family members of the victims and the greater Charleston community have responded in the wake of such evil. At the first court hearing for the perpetrator, some family members of the victims said that they forgive him and asked for God’s mercy on his soul. The attack happened on a Wednesday during a Bible study and the church was back open in time for Sunday services. On the following Wednesday, members of the church held Bible study in the same room where the attack took place, undeterred from the act of terror that took place a week earlier.
The cowardly people who perpetrate these types of attacks want the people affected to live in constant fear and to be angry and divided. Instead, the people of Charleston have shown even more love for one another and have emerged as an even stronger community. Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of one of the victims, the Rev. Daniel Simmons, put it best by saying she wants to make sure “that hate doesn’t win.”
Over the past week in Charleston, the outpouring of love has drowned out any feelings of hate. The biggest thing we can all do to fight back against hateful violence is to be nicer to one another, to understand that we all have major challenges we face in our lives, and to make sure that love drowns out hate.
In just the past week, our country has made some great strides in the direction of love and away from hate. The national conversation about the Confederate flag’s connotation of hate has been reignited and people have already taken steps to be more careful about the context in which it is displayed. The Supreme Court has now made it possible for couples to officially proclaim their love for one another in all 50 states, no matter who they love. As long as we continue to love one another and reject hate, the people who commit such acts of evil cannot win.
The past week can be best summed up by two words: love wins.
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