Yesterday, almost one million students across the United States of America, walked out en masse to protest school shooting and the inability of adults to agree upon how to make our schools safer.
There were two types of protests that were happening. One was #walkout which encouraged students to leave their school classrooms and #walkup which encouraged these young adults to find someone who seemed to exist “on the edges” and talk with them eat lunch and begin a conversation that hopefully would develop into a relationship. I supported the #walkout and the #walkup protests and thought both had merit and could change lives. Neither was a perfect way of protesting but each one was worth doing.
However, I noticed that many folks were for one or the other. Not many looked for balance in the two approaches. Students were either labeled #walkup or #walkout. It seemed not much conversation was happening between the quickly diverging groups. This made me sad. The reason the students were protesting is that adults can’t talk to one another, find a compromise, work together on behalf of our nation’s youngest and brightest. Now, it was happening again.
I am sick of litmus tests that divide us as a nation, community, and families. I am tired of people not being able to listen to one another even if we do not agree with the other. There is almost always a middle way where we remember we’re all human, deserving of respect and kindness instead of disdain and meanness. Perhaps one day we will realize we have more in common than what we allow to tear us apart.
On Saturday, while burning some debris in the yard, I went to grab a stick which was near the fire but not burning. My intention was to put it in a more advantageous position. However, as I grabbed the still cool end of the stick a single burning piece of ash fell right where I placed my thumb. I quickly dropped the stick and began shaking my whole hand the way someone does when they burn themselves. For the past several days I have had a reminder of the encounter, a blister on my right thumb.
The blister is a reminder of the randomness of life. A second earlier or later and I probably wouldn’t have burned myself. In the same way, we often see the haphazard events of our lives. A moment before or after and there’s no car accident or more or fewer injuries in it. A doctor’s appointment a month or two earlier or later and a disease is detected or too far advanced to undergo treatments. A moment premature or delayed and we miss a relationship we cherish or disdain.
Whatever life brings our way there are remains that stay with us. Whether positive or negative who can tell? The most we can do is be aware, open to new experiences and cautiously protecting our souls.
Everyone should have a friend who dances to their own music, marches to the beat of their own drummer. These special ones seem to walk a path that others cannot see and probably wouldn’t have the courage to navigate a path so culturally unconceived.
We seemingly live in a world where there are only two sides. These sides are chosen by litmus tests and depending on what you believe, where you stand on the issues, a label is slapped on you and you assume the responsibility and culpability of all others labeled and standing along side you. There is no nuance, no subtleties and we all suffer from it. Vitriol, disdain and hostility are hurled at those on the other side and our cultures are divided seemingly to never be brought together again.
I wonder if there are enough people who would dare to not accept this paradigm, view of life, of others. Are there enough folks who would put aside the expectations and be the exceptions to what our world demands? How many would choose to belong to the community of nuance, walk the road less traveled and dance to the music of the middle?