By VERNON ROBISON
Last week was a heart-rending time for all southern Nevadans. The chaos and carnage that randomly occurred so close to home at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival on the night of October 1 was just incomprehensible to most of us. The infinitely rippling costs in human life, and suffering caused by the seemingly pointless decisions of one deeply troubled person have been staggering and inestimable. Those ripples have spread out across the land and done untold damage to hundreds of households, lives and individuals. But here, close to home, with so many friends and families touched in some way by this event, it has been especially harrowing.
This sad event can’t help but raise anguishing questions in us. In the face of so much needless violence – in the dark shadows of such destructive evil – what can any of us do? In a world where such things are possible, and so startlingly frequent, where can we turn for hope or for safety? Where can we go to for peace? Where can we find security?
One thing is certain: most of the ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’ that took place in the media last week regarding the hundreds of ways that security ought to be tightened down in our society is not the answer. The talk of establishing new registries, installing more metal detectors, frisking hotel visitors at the lobby, and enacting national gun control measures are all reactionary tactics. At this point, they are simply too little too late. Though they would punish and harrass law-abiding citizens, they wouldn’t eliminate the violence in society. Indeed, they would be no more successful than the post 9/11 violations of privacy and personal rights in the nation’s airports have been at preventing tragic events like last week’s shooting in Las Vegas from occurring. No, there will always be some other outlet for evil to be done. In these matters we should carefully heed the warning voice of our wise founding father Benjamin Franklin who said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Perhaps the best answer to the heart-rending questions raised in last week’s massacre was offered right here at home by Overton resident Lois Hall. On the day after the shooting, Lois said that she could think of little else. She watched the news coverage, as most of us did, in unbelief; and she became more and more unsettled, agitated and upset by it. The worst part for her was the feeling that there was “nothing that she could do.”
It was about that time that a solution came to her mind. She finally realized that all she could do is pray.
Right away, she went to work organizing a community gathering – an evening prayer vigil – for that very night. She personally invited most of the clergy in the community to attend. And she made an open invitation over social media to anyone who wanted to be there.
At 7:00 pm, in the Overton Park pavilion, about 75 people gathered in a circle, lit by the warm glow of candlelight. For about 45 minutes these neighbors bonded together in good will. They said kind words to each other. They listened to one another. They cried together. They comforted one another. And they offered prayers seeking peace and understanding.
Some of the attendees carried especially heavy burdens that night. There were those in the group who had actually been in attendance at the concert on Sunday night and were fortunate to have escaped with their lives. Others had family members who had been there, right amidst the rain of bullets, and had seen horrific things. For these people, the evening vigil provided a community support group; a firm foundation of neighbors who were willing to lift their burdens for a while by showing respect, love and empathy for them.
This little gathering in Overton Park illustrated two true and time-honored sources where folks can go for peace during those moments when all hope seems to be gone. Indeed, in organizing her humble vigil, Lois reminded us of where we can turn.
Firstly, we can turn to God. The beautiful prayers uttered that night by the local clergy invoked a higher power to find some sense in the senseless and meaning in the meaningless. They reminded attendees that peace is a spiritual state. It doesn’t come from the outside; but rather it eminates from within us. These simple prayers taught that we can leave all of the pain and hurt in God’s hands and then continue on with life without carrying those burdens.
Secondly, we can turn to each other. Good people can band together in neighborhoods and communities to lift each other and provide peace and security.
Amid devastating events like last week, we must remember that good, kind and decent people are still in the majority. And there is tremendous latent power in that majority. So much good can be accomplished when decent people band together. We can help one another, serve one another, listen to each another, and be good neighbors. In those associations, we can find an element of peace.
And so, despite all of the devastation and heartbreak of last week; I’d just like to thank Lois Hall from Overton; as well as all of the attendees at that quiet Monday night vigil in Overton Park. I thank them for reminding us, once again, of where we can all turn for peace, hope, understanding, and safety in a mad world.