As I write this, I’m inundated with a flood of emotions due to the recent deaths. It’s amazing to me how humans are able to function despite inner turmoil, helplessness, fear, anger, distress, sadness, ambivalence, uncertainty, feelings of powerlessness and even terror. People experience these emotions daily, sometimes simultaneously, as they experience the injustices of this world, yet continue to go to work, go to school, and carry out their daily lives.
I struggled on what to write this week because I tend to focus on the light hearted, positive, and things that can be done within one’s control to take care of self, but my heart is heavy. Too heavy for the post I drafted on Thursday, but never published. It’s too heavy for the pink hearts in the picture I took and shared in this post, but I will circle back around to its significance later. This post will be different from my others because I tend to not write about these sorts of things although they impact me a great deal. I’m Haitian American married to an African American and we’re raising a son and a daughter in this world. The color of our skin is evident upon first laying eyes on us. The color of our skin definitely impacts the way we raise our children.
Truthfully, I haven’t been able to really articulate my feelings. It’s a combination of helplessness, sadness, anxiety, hope, gratefulness, and uncercertainty as best as I can tell right now. My family has experienced abuse when I was a child. By my family, I mean my mother and her 4 children, which includes me (the youngest), at the hands of my father. A thought came to me when I learned of the Dallas police shootings and that was this is what happens in an abusive relationship. The abused is beat down (the best I can do right now in terms of clinical terminology as a social worker) and tormented mentally, psychologically, and sometimes physically. There is also a shrouding of secrecy in abused families. The abused will plead, beg, adjust behaviors, and sometimes even tell someone as attempts to stop or reduce the abuse, but it falls on deaf ears and the abuse continues. This all becomes internalized. I view the shootings of the police officers as direct result of what happens when one has been unheard and unseen repeatedly. The abused decides that enough is enough and takes matters into their own hands. It is not the solution, but in that moment, it appeared to be the best option. Think of the countless women in prison, incarcerated for killing their abusers.
This is all I will write about my thoughts on the shootings and racism in America because I know there are a lot of opinions. I don’t want to get into that nor simplify the magnitude of problem. What I want to focus on is how to live a meaningfil life in a world with so much injustice going on that is out of one’s control.
Yesterday, I went into a store where everything is $1. The store is aptly named the Dollar Tree and I was looking for items for a party at work. We’re throwing a going away party for one of my coworkers and I had everyone at work write a memorable message for her on the pink hearts (in the picture) that my daughter helped me cut out. The hearts will be folded, placed in a mason jar and presented as a gift . At the Dollar Tree, I found a cute reddish ribbon to wrap the mason jar with. I was in line assessing (really judging in my head) a family in front of me. I recognized the woman, but I couldn’t place from where. I eventually thought that she might have been a cashier at one of the grocery stores I frequented.
I assessed that in this family was the woman who was with her adult daughter and her daughter’s 3 children. Two of the children looked a little unkempt and one had matted hair. I observed them unloading their cart full of processed snacks and drinks. Things I would never buy my kids. I observed the two women mouthing the number of items, estimating the cost of their purchases. I admit I was staring too much, but I am a people watcher. The woman that I recognized gave me a gentle smile a couple of times and then exclaimed she loved my dress. I made the assessment that she was kind and warm. I said “thank you” and continued to be bothered by the belt full of processed food that they were purchasing. I began to think that maybe this is all they could afford. I thought about how privileged I was for being educated on the benefits of making better food choices and having the financial ability to do so. The woman put an item separater in front and one behind my items. Every now and again, she would tell one of her grandkids to behave in some way. There was a moment where I thought she knew I was staring too much and cleverly attempted to break my gaze by being overly gracious. That could have been my guilt. Whatever the case, I eventually thought to myself, “here you are judging these good people and for what”? They are kind.
There are huge problems in this world like racisim, poverty, hunger, wars, rapes, slavery, kidnappings, persecution (to name a few), that may not be resolved in my lifetime. In fact, I do not believe that they will be resolved without an act from God. It can be overwhelming. But I think we were put on this earth to make connections with each other. Being kind and making meaningful connections with people, even if for brief moments, gives hope. In the same way that I will fill the mason jar with positive messages of hope to give away as a gift, making meaningful connections with people fills our hearts with hope that we can give as gifts to others. I think being kind, listening and really trying to understand another person’s experience (people we come across every day) brings out the best in us. This expression of love is within our control and is something that each person can take action on now.