It Starts With Me

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This space was built as a gift to my children—a collection of stories, as seen through my eyes. But lately, my eyes have felt uneasy with the scenery of our life. I want to save the best stories for them, but what happens in the rest of the world is part of their story, too.  

I've been scared and saddened by the devastation and hurt and ignorance that continues to parade boldly before me. If this space is for my children, then I owe it to them to stop hiding behind my lack of political savvy. I owe it to them to speak about how I feel — even when I have nothing more to offer than the ministrations of my heart. 

Like many of you, that heart has been made heavy and weary by global events and political discourse in recent months. But I have the privilege of watching it from a distance. I have felt uncomfortable, yes, but can I stand on the sidelines if I choose to. 

Yesterday, that changed. We met friends for lunch and spent time with a boy I have known most of his life. A boy who is knocking on the door of manhood at 15 years old. And while we caught up with one another, he told me that when he hangs out with his friends in public places, he is watched, he is followed, he is judged. He knows this even though he is still a child. He knows this will follow him into his adulthood. He said it with a matter-of-fact tone. 

This boy who is good and kind. This boy who speaks matter-of-fact about matters that shouldn't be fact. This boy who is sometimes seen first by the colour of his skin. And because it's not the way I look at him, I had too easily forgotten. His parents, my dear friends, don't get to forget.

When my parents brought me and my sister into the world, they proved love can exist outside the boundaries of race. And they handed me a responsibility to continue demonstrating that truth. But I still felt boundaries imposed upon me when I was young. I still felt the need to prove my belonging among my peers. I still had to fight through years of insecurity to embrace my ethnicity and speak out against prejudice. And I have been telling myself I triumphed, because I put it behind me.

But these recent world events have reminded me that my triumph can't be passed on to my children, along with the other traits they've inherited from me. Those matter-of-fact words from my friend's son reminded me I've been taking solace in knowing my children have never been on the receiving end of the kind of judgement I experienced and so many others continue to experience. But in doing so, have I also protected them from recognizing that it's happening? A reminder came and sat at our table with us yesterday. I've been telling myself I triumphed, because I no longer let myself be pushed down or affected by judgments or prejudices. But it's not a triumph if it only serves me. 

Though we are thoughtfully raising our children to be tolerant and accepting, they haven't yet felt the sting of not having that decency returned to them. They have the benefit of so many factors that make things easier for them. But I know there is value in returning to and sharing the discomfort that reared itself in my childhood and that continues to make itself known today.

I shouldn't be afraid to speak up because I don't know enough about politics — I do know right from wrong. And if I do make a mistake with my words, the only way I can be taught how to make it right is to be loud enough to be heard. If I don't open myself to learning, what can I teach my children? I want them to take the baton that was passed to me by my parents and keep running. I want triumph to be something they view as a global achievement and not one that belongs to them as individuals. I want them to understand the responsibilities of citizenship and humanity. 

I can continue to teach them it's not okay to build walls of segregation because of beliefs or gender or race or sexual orientation. They already know this; I am confident we are showing them by example and discussion. But this worldwide turmoil has reminded me it's not okay be complacent while those around you are engaging and supporting any action that lacks citizenship or hurts humanity. 

It's not right to treat others with disregard for their value. 

My hopes are simple, but they are enough for my children to understand and begin to value as their own: educate yourself, cast your ballots, lift up your hearts, reach out your hand, open your doors.

Come away from the sidelines, pass on the baton, run towards triumph for everyone.