If you’ve been following news, world events, or even just your local happenings, your heart is probably heavy, right? I mean, right? Like, how can we actually hear all that is going on and not feel something about it.
I’m not going to rehash it all here because, hopefully, you’ve at least been aware of some, if not all, of the social issues that have been heightened these past few months. The ones that have been weighing most heavily for me are related to
- systemic racism that people who are Black have been subjected to and the continued dismissal of systemic racism;
- the atrocities in Nigeria that have been going on for years, but that we in the Western world have only, kind of, sort of begun to pay attention to. In particular, my soul is heavy with the latest massacre and the use of children as suicide bombers
- the unanticipated violence in Paris and the loss of life and safety
- our continued acts of generalization and stereotyping despite acts being individual
- this cold, cold weather we are having in this part of the country, and the privilege I often forget I have related to warmth, access to clean areas, and food
Though social media is the medium I use to communicate with people, to stay in touch with others, to get my world news, and even to send out my own writings, it’s especially during these times when my heart gets heavy with the lack of humanity and compassion people show towards one another. My Facebook “friend” group, for example, is very diverse — many different identities and intersecting identities of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, faith/religion, socioeconomic class, education — and I’m “friends” with people for many different reasons. And, through all of this diversity, I like to believe that we are friends because we share humanity, we share this world, and we share a common commitment to see love win.
Yet, I’ve been struggling. I slowly disconnected (only to give in and re-install my social media apps a few hours later!) and have felt the desire to just pull away. To just leave the very platform that has given me support, kindness, and love in my own toughest time.
But, my heart gets heavy. My heart gets heavy when people who “like” my status updates about how my children have been bullied or called unkind names, and then they use those same unkind words to describe the protesters and those involved in social movements.
Or, when I write about how I love the city I live in because of it’s unique socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and political diversity — those status updates get “liked” by people who then judge others for having a Coach wallet and a card that assists them with buying groceries.
My heart is heavy.
When we write status updates about an act of dissent that blocks traffic, and yes, causes dangerous situations, and how unique this is. Yet, our status updates from just a few weeks ago was also about traffic and how it was a stand-still, and how nothing was moving. Even without the protests of last week, I have plenty of archived status updates from friends who write about how they are stuck on the highway and how they are “glad they peed before they left work because they’ve been on the on-ramp for over an hour”. Even my own husband calls me from his commute home from work — every day — because he is in stand-still traffic.
What would it mean if it were true?
I can’t solve the world’s problems. On most days, I can’t even get out of my own way to solve my daily problems. But, I know that I commit myself to asking “What would it mean if it were true?”. Essentially, I do the best I can to put myself in the place of another, even if it means I have a false understanding, of what it must mean to be that person in that moment. It doesn’t always work, and I don’t always succeed. But, I practice it every day.
When someone cuts me off on the road, I’m pissed. I’m angry. And, I likely utter a few choice words. And, then I tell myself to come up with 1 reason why that person did it — one reason beyond, “‘Cause he’s an ass.” What would it mean if that person just heard his Mom passed away? What would it mean if that person just heard “If you don’t get here in 2 minutes, you’re fired.” What would it mean if that were true? Now, likely, the person just cut me off ’cause he’s an ass. Okay, fine. But, what’s going to have me move past that moment — I have to assume that there was some reason.
There are situations where this is harder — nay, impossible, for me. For example, I simply find this exercise too impossible when I try to figure out why a group of people would kidnap girls and strap bombs to them and send them into villages. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to find compassion and humanity in this. Maybe individually, those men have been told something terrible will happen if they do not. Maybe they have been systematically brainwashed. Maybe,… I don’t know… this one is too hard for me.
But, what would it mean if it were true that you could take a minute to do this to? What would it mean for you to develop compassion in this way? What would it mean if, after you’ve initially judged someone’s view, someone’s behavior, and someone’s life, that you took 60 seconds to ask yourself, “What would it mean if it were true?”
What would it mean if it were true that the woman with the Coach wallet was now relying on public assistance for food? Maybe it would mean that she, like thousands of Americans, was in a good working job where she could readily provide for her family, and then she was called into the office and was told she was let go. That all of her health insurance was cut off, and that she had to navigate signing up for public health care. That her child, who had an appointment at a hospital, suddenly had to cancel the appointment or pay out of pocket. That she usually goes to the grocery store when it’s not as crowded, but that, today, she had to help out a neighbor. So, now she was in line at the busiest time of the day.
Would would it mean if it where true that an individual just found out she was diagnosed with cancer, and that she felt she hadn’t done much with her life. And, with the year she had left, she was going to make a difference. So, she showed up to a meeting about protesting, participated in a protest that made people angry, but that for the first time in her 40 years, she felt alive. Really alive.
These could be made up. But, what would it mean if it was true?
If it was true, then we’re all a little bit human.
If it was true, then we are all a little bit faulty.
If it were true, then we are all a little bit imperfect.
If it were true, then we are all just trying to do what we can to be who we can.
What would it mean if it were true that you could be any one of those people tomorrow? What would it mean if you were the one who cut me off while driving?
What would it mean if I believed that you were just trying to be who you needed to be?
What would it mean, if we all believed this could be true?
Peace, love, and believing in humanity,