I shared a video today, by Shane Koyczan, which can be seen on Upworthy. It stirred a bit of a contentious discussion between myself and a facebook friend. I thought it was a beautiful portrayal of turning pain into art. He, from what I could gather, felt it was too sappy. He also made an argument that we as a society should equip our children with skills to become stronger (boxing was the example he gave) so that they aren’t bullied in the first place. I work with young people. And while overwhelmingly I see their goodness, I also, from time to time, see and hear some of the most hateful types of bullying. I can’t believe the things they will say and do, and I know that just telling someone who is the target to “buck up” isn’t going to solve anything, or take away how painful their experiences are.
Even so, I don’t usually SPEAK up about my opinions on controversial subjects. I share my opinion, to be sure, but if met with opposition, I usually back down. And in the event I do speak up, it is usually followed by an apology.
I believe in art. I believe in being kind to each other. I believe in these things enough to take a stand. And for quite possibly the first time, I had no problem sharing what I believed tonight without a thought of backing down. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t willing to hear his perspective, just that I felt the need to voice my disapproval about what I felt to be insensitive remarks, no matter what he may think of me because of it. I want to be clear here, that my not speaking up seems limited to just this kind of dialogue, where I personally am at risk of being attacked. Because I wouldn’t hesitate to stand up for something I believe is right when it comes to the safety and security and respect of others.
Anyways, now that I’ve cleared that up, let me say that it seems this thing, this project, is working. (I’m finding my voice!) This daily sharing surprises me most days (I never quite know what’s going to come out,) but above all else it seems to be allowing me to come into my own, and I am deeply appreciative of it.
This facebook conversation also got me to thinking about other things. Namely, the experiences that define us. And how experiences that seem minor, insignificant even, are actually the foundations of what our moral compasses are built on.
One moment came to mind for me, in particular. It’s a foggy memory, much like a dream. I was with my mother, or father, or perhaps a friend’s mother, or father. We were in a parking lot and this adult person in my life (we are going to say my mother, which makes the most sense in this story) brushed the car next to us enough to scratch the paint. Without hesitation she stopped, got out, and left a note on the windshield. An apology and a phone number, so that person could follow up and get insurance information. I haven’t thought about that in I can’t tell you how long, but for some reason this memory came back to me today as I came quite close to a car next to me (no touching occurred). It made me wonder if I would have the integrity to stop and own up to what I had done, knowing no one else saw me or would be able to trace it back to me. (I would, if you are wondering.) And even though I can’t remember all of the details of that event, I do know that it stuck with me in a place that mattered. These moments, they define us. We build our beliefs and actions upon them.
I then got to wondering about what experiences shaped this other person’s world, that he would say offensive things about how someone chose to deal with their experiences around being bullied. That he had the feeling that we need to “toughen up” kids. I’m not saying my way or his is right or wrong, just a pondering of how our actions can effect those around us. And a commitment to myself that I continue to stand up for what I believe to be right, decent, and kind.
As a follow up, I would like to add: it has been confirmed that it was in fact my mother who instilled this lesson in me via the car incident.
Here’s to another day of creativity…