Enough is Enough

I’m not one to lose my temper or raise my voice because anger is an emotion I rarely feel or give in to, but lately I have been angry all the time. And I’m angry because I simply don’t understand.

I don’t understand how when I tell people that part of my job includes me teaching in the county jail, the reaction I get is never “Oh good, those people deserve a good education!” but rather “You should invest in a gun,” or (more often) “Can’t you look for a new job?” as if the rights people are entitled to is dependent on whether or not they sleep behind bars.

I don’t understand how my choice to teach in a different country is seen as negligent towards my own country and offering help is only selfless if it occurs within certain confines. “Help” is only acceptable so long as it ensures that the majority maintains the status and popularity they have upheld for so many years. “Help” is only praised so long as it occurs within safe boundaries, despite the fact that the majority of the people in need of help need it specifically because of a lack of safety or security. “Help” is only help if it is approved of by a particular group of people, otherwise it is a waste of time.

I don’t understand how the students I work with, all of whom have some sort of disability, can break down in tears in the middle of class during a science lesson because they got an answer wrong. All because while they were being pulled out of class and not learning the same things as their peers, they were also missing out on learning how to believe in themselves and bounce back from mistakes. They had spent so much of their lives being told what they can’t do and letting their disability define them that when the time came for them to believe in themselves, they didn’t know how.

I simply don’t understand. And believe me when I say I’m trying to. I’m trying to practice empathy every chance I get and be mindful of the fact that people will act and think a certain way based on their own experiences and their own worldview. But when I go to work and hear about abuse and blatant racism in prison, then I go to my other students and hear about how their disabilities have led to them being stripped of opportunities, then I go home and listen to ridicule, doubt, and fear about my decisions, then I wake up the next morning to hear about yet another mass shooting, this time in my own hometown, I am more than just at a loss – I am enraged.

I don’t want to live in a world where money is more of a priority than humanity.

I don’t want to live in a place that advertises “all men are created equal” but forgets to mention that there’s a fine-print explanation of who qualifies for equality.

I don’t want to live among people who live in apathy while demonizing empathy.

So, I’m angry. I’m angry because we’re not doing enough. I’m angry because in all my efforts to understand, I have been enduring a hopeless search for insufficient answers. I’m angry because the system is broken and all we’re doing is patching holes in the roof instead of strengthening the very foundation that’s causing the structure to fall apart in the first place.  

I hope you’re angry too and I hope you let that rage fuel you in the fight for change.

Enough is enough.

Supportive through the Gray

I like to think of myself as a very supportive person. I’m a hype-man with my friends –  cheering them on and supporting them – and I’m a cushion for my family – someone they can fall back on if they ever lose their balance or stumble. But one of the things I have a hard time doing is being supportive when I don’t want to be. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to encourage the people I love just because I don’t feel like it (although encouragement can be hard when you don’t always feel it yourself), but rather, supporting people through decisions I don’t necessarily approve of or agree with can be challenging.

Every day I’m forced to remind myself that people don’t think the way I do. Not everyone has the same dreams. Not everyone has the same plans. Not everyone has the same tolerance or the same mindset. You would think this is common sense, and it kind of is, but that doesn’t mean it’s something I always remember. I could be in a conversation or an argument and it won’t even occur to me that this person is different – it’s not until I actively remind myself that they are not the same that I’ll then try to change my perspective to one that matches theirs in order to understand. But sometimes I reallyyy don’t want to. I just want them to think like me. I just want them to see why what they’re doing/saying is ridiculous. (I can practically hear the gasps and whispers about how I’m being selfish.) But this is something everyone thinks, just not everyone admits to thinking it.

Lately I’ve been watching as someone I love hasn’t been supported in the way he needs because people (myself included) don’t agree with his ways. But what I’ve realized is that this lack of support isn’t pushing him to do the right thing, instead, it’s just pushing him away. Right and wrong aren’t concepts that are set in stone. There are clearly things that should be right to everyone and there are things that should be wrong to everyone, but there is also a very large gray area that nobody can agree on. Maybe it’s not our place to tell someone what shade of gray they’re standing on – whether it’s right or wrong. I think the better option would be to step back and tell the person that if they succeed, you’ll be proud, and if they fall, you’ll catch them.

The reason supporting people through decisions you don’t deem “right” is difficult is because you see failure on the other end. But if we could acknowledge that we see failure, while trying to understand how the other person sees success, well, maybe that’s what true support is.