“I stopped looking for the light. I decided to become the light instead.”
I want to be Dorsey Fairbairn when I grow up. Who, you may ask, is this woman? I don’t know her personally, but here’s what I do know: she’s the mom of three boys, a small business owner, and the mastermind behind the recent unity chain on the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina. Using the power of social media and her giant heart, she organized this unity chain event (with some other wonderful souls) to bring peace and hope after the recent slaughter of nine black people at Emanuel AME church in Charleston. A 21-year old white man, Dylann Roof, infiltrated a peaceful Bible study and opened fire on the unsuspecting worshippers with the aim of starting a race war.
Dorsey felt moved by the violence and the heartrending loss, as we all did here in Charleston and across the nation. Upon hearing the news of the shooting, I personally felt heavy and ashamed. The thought of all these precious lives lost, the grieving families, and the hatred that motivated the crime left me flattened and spent. While I sat deflated and tired, Dorsey announced on her Facebook page that she wanted to organize a small unity chain, maybe 100 people, to bring people together in the wake of the tragedy.
Within a few days, the event exploded, and an estimated 20,000 people came together to join hands across our beloved Ravenel Bridge, mourn together, and make promises of unity for the future. Her modest vision was 100 people, but it swelled to historic proportions, a beautiful and inspiring reflection of what one person’s vision can accomplish.
Dorsey was a spark. Recently, she shared a photo on her Facebook page that said, “I stopped looking for the light. I decided to become the light instead.” She is one person who became the light, started a chain, and literally created a bridge between people, between races. Because of her spark, we are having conversations at our dinner tables about race and humanity. We are discussing love and history and the blight of racism with our children on the way to baseball practice. We are collectively mourning the loss of these nine treasured people: Clementa, Cynthia, Tywanza, Sharonda, Ethel, Daniel, Myra, Susie, and DePayne.
What if we all stopped looking for the light and became the light instead? What if we all decided to be kinder, gentler, and more compassionate? What if we followed our hearts and moved mountains when we felt called? What could we accomplish if we spoke up about the ideas and the people that matter to us? As MLK said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We are the generation to stop the hate and teach love and acceptance. We can teach our children to be the light.
In the midst of all the love, peace, and grace that is flowing through our Charleston right now, there is a misguided 21-year-old murderer sitting in a jail cell. If he is sane, he is realizing his attempt to create a race war has instead brought black and white together to proclaim that human life matters. He has been forgiven by many of the victims’ family members (incredibly!), and this makes his face and his legacy start to fade away. All that is left is that love, peace, and grace, and the lingering light that Dorsey sparked.
God bless you, Charleston. May we continue to hold hands across bridges and love one another.
Photo credit: Solange Swafford