have you ever been in the midst of a conversation with one of the most interesting people you know you’ll ever meet and realized that in this very moment they were changing you? have you ever sat on a stool with a tiny puppy biting your heels, listening to a persons’ life story while having yours being completely shaken up? if you haven’t, i think you should. i truly believe everyone needs an experience like the one i had today. how much do you really know people? and out of all of the questions that you ask in a day, which ones matter the most?
the best part of the profession i have chosen is the conversations i get to have with the people i meet–and more importantly, the people i get to know. there wasn’t an introduction. it was a dive off of a 50 foot cliff instead of wading around in a kiddie pool, if you know what i mean. it was a two hour visit full of all of the things i learned about in school but had never seen play out in real life. today i learned that the thing about theories is that they are easier to read on paper. when you hear about them, when you see what they mean as they fit into a persons’s life, that’s when it’s hard. hard to accept, hard to understand, and hard to not want to do something about it.
i don’t believe in making up excuses for people. i believe in holding people accountable for their lives and for their opportunity to change and make different choices. but more importantly, i know that where you come from has an impact on who you turn out to be. i know that realizing ‘the american dream’ is to believe that hard work and persistence will pay off. and it will. and it does. but i don’t think the playing field is always equal. not everyone who tries will achieve that great success, and not everyone who wants to get there will be able to try. i truly believe that. in fact, i have seen what that means. for small children who grow up in chaotic environments, who experience physical and sexual abuse, who endure neglect, who live in poverty, who are discriminated against because of their skin color, who later are diagnosed with a mental illness, sometimes that ‘american dream’ just means making it through the day. think not just of that child, but of the family they are raised in. of the neighborhood they live in. of the quality of education they will be provided at the school they are able to go to. think of the family values that are instilled in them, think of all of the things they will witness and experience and how that might impact them later on. i’m not saying that a person with a similar life story can’t do it. i believe in each and every thread of all people’s potential. what i am hoping is that you will try to understand that people are often a product of their environment. what i am saying is that it is hard; that when you have so much to overcome, you have to fight your way up.
i am wondering what you can know about poverty if you haven’t ever lived it. if you haven’t ever given someone the chance to tell you what it feels like before writing them off. if you haven’t even read about or attempted to understand it. i’m wondering if you can see the ways racism still exists today and if you have been looking for it. and i am wondering if you know about who is homeless and why they are. and i also have to wonder what you know about mental illness and whether you have ever challenged your pre-conceived notions, if you know how stigma plays out. because today i couldn’t help but wonder about these things as i sat in a house, listening to someone who does know.
and there went another piece of my heart. it went to the person i just met and hardly knew. and to the person they want to be. it went to that person who lost their hope at just six years old. to that person who has so much more fighting left to do. i believe in giving away heart pieces in exchange for other people’s, if that makes any sense. i like the idea of recreating your individual heart to comprise it of all of the people you meet along the way.
that’s what happened today.
let someone change your life.