It’s pretty bad when gang leaders are calling for peace. As you know, Baltimore is the backdrop of the current crisis of a significant portion of our population who are disenfranchised and frustrated. Of course criminals who resort to breaking laws and injuring people are never right. But the real issue behind the dramatic scenes is that a sizable population doesn’t feel heard. That is a tragedy.
Toni Morrison said that what every child wants to know is, Do your eyes light up when I enter the room? Don’t we all want this? We want to be heard. We want to be validated. We want to know we matter. This is a universal desire.
I used to work with drug addicts in the inner bowels of Baltimore almost 20 years ago. My patients would tell me they needed to use drugs. We talked about how the only real needs are food, air and water. I amend this statement now. We also need to be heard. We need to feel connected.
To be truly alive, we need to be connected to others. When we’re not truly connected, we get frustrated, angry, sullen, bitter, lonely. The light in our own eyes start to flicker and dim. And to be truly connected, you must be heard and validated.
La Chica has always had problems with word recall and processing information. I’ve taken steps to try to address these issues in school, with limited success. I’m exploring further steps to get to the root of the problem, and to find solutions. Because when you can’t find the words to express what you’re thinking, what you’re wanting, what you’re needing, you can’t tell the world who you are. When you get confused by instructions and stories, you’re not in the same space as your peers who understood what is unfolding. In essence, she’s not connecting to anyone in a true way. She’s not truly validated. She’s not truly heard. This is a tragedy.
My mother through recent years has suffered medical conditions which have slowly rendered her mostly miserable. She is on oxygen every moment of her days, in a wheelchair most of her days, blind in one eye and almost blind in the other, deaf in one ear, and in pain more moments than not. Her medical issues have resulted in her losing her connections to the world, to people she loves, to the world she lives in. When you can’t move freely and you can’t see, and you can barely hear, it’s very hard to connect with someone, with anyone. It’s in these growing moments of disconnection that will eventually kill her.
It is in these moments of not being heard and being disconnected that will kill each of us if we are not mindful in taking care of each other. Of our children, our parents, our communities. We must proactively look to each person on this earth, especially the young, the sick, the disempowered; we must sit still and listen to their stories. We each have unique stories to tell. We all deserve to be heard.
I’ve come to believe it’s the strength of our connections to this world that keeps us tethered to this world. It’s the strength of our connections to each other that keep us alive and keep this world a civilized society. It’s the connections that breed empathy and kindness and compassion. And those forces are more effective than any riot gear and tear gas.