I've been struggling with what to write this week as I watch what's going on in Minneapolis and Kentucky and beyond. I'm guessing like myself, you all have been watching it unfold and have probably had a range of emotions in response too. Anger, sadness, disappointment in humanity, anger, sadness, anger again: this has pretty much been my reaction. I've seen many people post on social media their support for George Floyd and the protesters and that has buoyed my spirits in the sense that we may finally, as a society, be starting to see the damage we've caused each other and to me that is the first step toward finding a path towards healing. I feel this a tiny bit, then hope to all the universe it might be true because I don't want anything worse to happen. I believe, like in our persona relationships, that as a society there is a breaking point in these kinds of world issues - a mountain top we have to fight our way up and over with many obstacles in our way - before we can finally break through and gain a small amount of ground. The more people that are involved, the harder this becomes. And this is all the world involved in racism and the fight for true equality. Every single one of us, ALL THE WORLD, has to pull it's shit together and be willing to stand up in whatever way we can, to fight to make the world better. We are all in this world together, in every sense, for the good and the bad.
No matter the issue, things will never find resolution or get better because people sit around and mostly ignore the issue. In our personal lives, we each have our baggage, our past pain and troubles, and we cannot continue to push that pain away and expect to find peace of mind. When we are ready, we have to confront our personal issues and deal with them head on, to do the required hard work facing our past so that we can find peace for ourselves in our future. If we do not confront our pasts, our past will continue to influence our present in ways we cannot even see, perpetuating the pain and heartache and only building our walls higher, preventing us from truly connecting with others. I have and still am experiencing this first hand in my own personal life. Now, I am beginning to see things more clearly and I am beginning to find my own peace inside myself.
As I watch racism rear it's ugly head over and over, and I watch the fight come to a head this week in the form of protests, I am thinking a lot about how our personal struggles and paths are reflected in our societal struggles and paths. Just as in our personal lives, where we cannot find resolution to our problems without working hard to find a way to peace; As a society we must also work hard to find resolution against racism and all the associated issues we are dealing with - but together. This is a societal, a huge cultural problem. We MUST solve this problem as a society, together. So those of us who believe we are not racist, who are sitting in our homes upset and sad and disgusted and angry about George Floyd's death and all the others, we have to show we are anti-racist. Simply stating we're not racist and being sad will not solve this problem. And sitting by and letting only the people of color fight the fight, will not solve the problem. This is a societal problem. We are all part of the society we've created. So we must ALL work to solve this problem.
This is it. This is the moment where we reach a breaking point and we either all get up and start taking action, and fight alongside our fellow human beings for kindness and compassion and equality; or we continue to just sit here feeling sad about it, not really taking any action. This is the moment where we find out just what kind of society we truly live in.
It is easy to feel helpless and feel like there is nothing we can do to help, especially since many of us are still laying low as the coronavirus sweeps over us. But there are still things you can do to help fight to change our society and make it one focused on true equality. Look up your local organizations fighting for equality. Become members and contribute financially even a small amount if you can and if you can't, send them a message of support to let them know you see them - do both! Stand up for equality at the dinner table with your racist relative - respond to their comments on social media respectfully but strongly stating how their statement is racist and how that's not okay. Seek out books and television shows and movies that teach you and your family about systemic racism, that represent more than just white people, and teach your children about the awesomeness of diversity and about true compassion for others. Ask your kid's teachers and schools what they are doing to integrate diversity into their work, and help them find ways to teach the true history of racism in this country.
There is another very simple thing you can do though. You can reach out to someone you see is in pain and show them compassion and offer them support. I do this all the time in doctor's offices, the grocery store, in friend groups, and even online with people I don't know. My friends often tell me they are impressed that I do this when I tell them about a cool interaction I had. They think it's strange that I do this, that it's not normal, that it's maybe even hard to do. But it's not hard to be aware of other people around you and to show kindness - this is not a super power folks. If you were walking down a sidewalk and a person stumbled and fell, you would stop and ask them if they were okay. You would offer to help them, maybe even call an ambulance and sit with them to help them not feel afraid. We do these things all the time for each other for physical pain. Why not do the same when we are in emotional pain? Think about it. If we all paid attention to the emotional pain of others more, and we all took the time to ask if someone in pain was okay, what kind of impact would that have on the world? What kind of impact might that have on you when you are feeling down?
Recently, in a Facebook group I'm in, a woman joined the group and posted that she was suffering from anxiety and asked the group if anyone had any advice that could help her feel better. Many people responded and I decided to respond as well. The next day I received a message from a man in Ireland who had seen her post and my comment and he sent me a personal message thanking me for helping him. I was shocked. I responded and we chatted a bit about how he is doing. I also sent the young woman a message and asked her how she was doing and we have chatted back and forth a bit. Simply responding to her call for help, helped her and this man and maybe others feel like they weren't as alone as they thought they were.
Last week my town's Downtown group announced our summer festivals are canceled due to COVID19. In the comments I saw a woman say she was impressed with how our leadership was handling the response here in Vermont and is hoping to move here in about a year with her family from Utah. I moved here from Utah about a year ago myself, so I replied to her telling her so and offered to help if she had any questions about the area. We ended up in a private message chain talking about this big move, the big decision that it is, and I helped her find some connections to answer some of her questions. She helped me feel not as alone to see that someone else felt the way I did and is having a similar experience. With her simple comment and my response, we created a connection and helped each other feel less alone and gave support.
These kinds of experiences, these kind of simple and supportive human connections are what make our society better. So, if you feel like you don't have much influence over what's going on in our country right now, begin with your own small circle of influence. Making real and meaningful verbal, emotional, connections, are just as important as helping that person who fell and broke their ankle on the sidewalk. These are the building blocks that make our society a better place to live in, that help to fight for kindness and compassion to rule over pain and racism and pain and more pain. You can help. You can make a difference, even if it's one person at a time. You simple have to take action. Knowledge alone is not enough - you must take action. We all have to contribute action to OUR society to make it what we want it to be.
Today I leave you with a song and a quote:
"We could be the healin', when you're feeling all alone."
Michael Franti & Spearhead - The Flower (feat. Victoria Canal)