While there have been an overwhelming amount of articles and videos and statuses and memes passed around during this time (aka if you want to find your opinion presented by someone, even who is deemed as somewhat reliable and credible, you will); there has also been some really quality content put out there. Some profound lyrics. Some necessary questions. Some helpful stories. Some needed confrontation and calling out. During this time one of the most simple yet life changing things I have heard is something along the lines of “just because it doesn’t affect you, doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
As I think over these last few months alone the examples pile up. From the corona virus to racism to unjust systems to abusive power to child trafficking. Endangered lives and families and loved ones. Hurting individuals. Fearful human beings. Angry groups of people.
So here are my two quick applications that I want to take with me regardless of how the rest of 2020 shakes out. Regardless of whose voice is shouting out to be heard in the future. Regardless of which “side” people are claiming it is coming from.
1. Informing our minds: education
I know I know, this word feels kind of like an attack. When anyone is told “educate yourself” it’s human nature to feel labeled as ignorant or uninformed. Like the person saying it is somehow claiming to have “arrived” and you, too, just need to be “enlightened.” So yes, it feels like a trendy tag line at the moment. But I’m not sure there’s a better way to really say it. We cannot speak to, and certainly not against, the things we have not taken the time to LEARN ABOUT (educate ourselves in).
There is really only one starting point for empathy and action, and that is knowledge. If we do not know something to be true, we will never be motivated to do anything about it. Some people have been forced to reckon with the present realities being debated politically and socially. It touches them personally in a way they never would have chosen. But if, at the very least, we want to have informed opinions and valid viewpoints, we must make the choice to listen. To read. To watch. And then guess what? We still have the freedom to choose what we let ultimately shape and inform us. Will some books be biased? Will some stats be skewed? Will some documentaries have agendas? You bet. But we simply cannot disagree with what we do not know anything about. And while we choose to listen and to learn, our opinions just might get tweaked. Our mindsets could slowly begin to transform. And our hearts may even start to soften. All in ways we never really expected but all in ways we may have needed.
2. Changing our hearts: empathy to action
A while back I posted a blog that listed the reasons why I want to do foster care. One was “because I’m afraid I can only care as deep as something touches me personally.” While that sounds snobby, I think it’s human nature. At least it’s mine. While reading statistics can shock me and hearing far-removed stories can sadden me, I think that can only go so far. We can put the numbers down and tuck the words away. Yet when something touches us, I mean really touches us, we can never be the same.
When we hug their necks and wipe their tears. When they sit on our couches. When our grandparents test positive in the face of a pandemic. When the neighbors we swap stories with are black. When the child we cleared a room for smears poop on those same walls because that’s how they deal with the abuse. When we hold their bones tight in the orphanage. When we visit them through the cell bars. When our own child is taken. When our nephew is exploited. When our spouses are addicted. When our siblings are targeted.
But most of these relationships and interactions and experiences do not happen upon us. To those of us afforded the privilege (and detriment) of turning a blind eye, we must choose to open them up wide. This could happen by picking a friend’s brain who is in the medical field about their day to day interactions with corona virus patients. Asking a mom of a black boy what her fears are. Being denied a hug by a child who has never known safe touch before. Getting to know a strippers story. Staying after school to work with a struggling student. Stepping foot on a reservation. Visiting someone in a nursing home. Going to someone’s house in a low income neighborhood. Letting abuse and trauma and oppression touch you. Really physically touch you, touch us, just as it has them.
Just because it isn’t happening to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.