I’ve had a couple of posts recently that were planned and missed, though I’m happily planning on adding them soon – after all, both are on topics I’m interested in talking about. I missed them on purpose. I missed them because it felt flippant to post them, even if no one saw them but my friends. Before I post them, first, I wanted to just write. I didn’t want an outline or a topic. This is my one hundredth post, and I want it to have a little extra meaning.
There have been a lot of tragedies in the world recently. Tragedy isn’t a thing unique to the present, but it is something that feels far more salient today than it might have back in January. At least to me. And I know I’m not the only one with this sudden, eye-opening awareness. It’s easy to pretend that bad things never happen, just as its easy to pretend bad things will never happen again. (Or, if you’re a fatalist, it’s easy to imagine the good will never come back.) It’s easy to feel like there’s nothing that you, as an individual, can do to make a difference. I feel that way all the time, and it’s terrifying. I’ve never been interested in fame or fortune in the stereotypical sense, but I have, for my entire life, felt this incredible desire to have an impact on the lives of others. A positive impact. I want to be a person that people look to for help. I may only be able to provide a shoulder to cry on, but still: I want to help.
So I understand feelings of futility. I also understand feelings of relief, that I am still safe, that my people are still safe, that I am not in a place where I have to live in fear. I am in a place where I can wear what I want and say what I want and do what I want, and for the most part, I am completely safe when participating in all of those behaviors.
I am so, so blessed to have these freedoms.
But it concerns me that these freedoms aren’t universal, and it concerns me that people have decided to police these freedoms with violence. Even more than that, though, it concerns me that there are people in the world, in my city, in my own family, who would rather bury their heads than risk learning about how they can help create a better world for everyone. Friends say to me, “well, what can I do,” and shrug off responsibility, as if it were something that you can give up. You can’t. Responsibility is an inherent part of being human. You can’t say you’re not helping, that you’re not making an impact, because every time you interact with another person, you are changing them.
I know this is true, because a girl I taught at summer camp three years ago emailed me out of the blue to tell me I was integral in her plans to one day be a pediatrician. All because she said I encouraged her to try her best.
I know this is true, because one of my fellow researchers, a woman I disagree with vehemently on many political points, has thanked me for always talking to her with an open mind.
I know this is true, because I once spent an hour discussing religion with three strangers in a Panera, and while we might not have left with changed minds, we left with the sense of peace that comes from have open and honest discourse, free from the vitriol so many use freely in their arguments.
I know this is true, because I am changing all the time.
Maybe this isn’t a solution to the horrors that have occurred in San Bernadino, in Paris, in Yemen, in Lebanon, in so many parts of the world. But it is something we should all consider. Kindness, to all, to anyone, but most of all to those we are afraid of, is the first step toward finding common ground. And once we reach that ground, we have the opportunity to build.