I have been inspired by several examples that made their way onto my path this week. One is a video of a daycare that has been set up in a retirement home. Another is a retirement living complex that allows college students to live there rent-free, provided they spend a required amount of time with the elderly residents. More inspiration has come from the recent series of black men shot by police and the racial hate brought about by the US political candidates. Many times, I have heard Oprah talk about how we do not have the conversation.
It’s true. We are not having the conversation. Many white people do not have any black friends, Hispanic friends, Japanese or Chinese friends. We may have people of other races and ethnicities as colleagues, coworkers, peers, fellow students, neighbors, and acquaintances but we are not close enough to be vulnerable with each other. We never get to know each other. We can’t ask the important questions for fear of offending, alienating or being rejected. Or worse, racist. But the ignorance that comes from not asking is literally killing us. It’s causing a mistrust, anxiety, fear, and sometimes, hatred.
What if we are all the same? What if we worry about the same things? Want the same things for our children? Have the same hopes, dreams and values deep down?
Our blood is all red. We grieve and mourn, heartbroken, when we lose loved ones. We all want to be safe, to be free from judgment, to have opportunities. We all want to be happy, to feel joy and experience love. We want to be supported.
All conflict is rooted in ignorance as is all hate. What if I could get to know you?
I want to touch your hair. And you can touch mine. I want to know what your favorite childhood memory is and I will tell you mine. I want to know what you dream about. I want to know your hopes and worries. What do you want your life to look like? What would you change? At the end of your life, what do you want people to say about you? I want to know the issues you deal with every day. The big things like getting into college, finding a job and the little things like dealing with dry skin and family matters. I want to touch you and look into your eyes. There is where I will feel your heartbeat and see into your soul.
I want to hug you and let you know you are loved. Free from judgment. All human. We all know adversity. At the end of the day adversity is adversity. It attempts to defeat us. To diminish us and sometimes to kill us. It makes us put up walls around us. Yet we all know it in varying levels and forms. Adversity crosses all boundaries of color, ethnicity, background, socioeconomic category, and neighborhood.
The conversation is not just about race and ethnicity. It is about young and old. It seems we are failing in about every way possible to embrace the human condition. We are falling severely short in showing respect for the elderly. They are our history and we don’t even know why that history matters and we may not figure it out before it’s too late. We are failing our children…doing too much and too little for them. We are failing each other when we do not make eye contact, offer a smile, say hello, how are you and listen for the response. We fail everyone around us when we are constantly dividing attention, or not, with our cell phones in hand.
We are not having the conversations. We are not sharing concern. We are not empathizing.
Eye contact has become awkward. Acknowledging people you have known for years but not seen recently has been replaced with being friends on Facebook. We are trading meaningful for meaningless.
We become even more isolated. Our communication skills fade along with our compassion. We have organized compassion, movements to help this group or that group. But we do not have the unorganized compassion of checking in on your neighbors. Instead we busily get into our cars and speed away or distractedly walk from car to house. You see them but we don’t know each other anymore. If I don’t know you, how do I know when you need something?
Isolation breeds fear and contempt. We don’t like to be touched anymore. We do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We do not fully feel. Somehow we have learned to expect people to fall short of our expectations of them, and then take it personally when we should only be concerned with our expectations of ourselves. If you are your best you, others who are the best versions of themselves, your kindred spirits, will find you.
We must start having the conversations. We must find ultimately that we are more like one another than not, but allowing the differences to enrich us rather than divide us. We must touch one another in ways other than violence. I cannot fear you if I know you. You cannot hate someone when you see they are like you. We are missing the main idea of life. The greatest thing we can do is give. Give time, attention, compassion, love, respect, kindness, patience, smiles, concern. As you give, you receive. But we’re missing that. We see examples of it here and there in videos shared on FB that warm our hearts. Then we go back to our day. You cannot love someone too much. You can’t break someone with an overdose of kindness. Children aren’t spoiled with too much love and attention. Neither are adults. At least 50% of adults are grown children who did not have what they needed as children. Many more are adults who have experienced adversity and disappointment. But we all want to be whole. Loved, unjudged, happy.
We must have the conversations. Touch my hair. Hold my hand to your heart. Love and be loved.