I sit ashamed and in disbelief. I am speechless.
For those of you that know me, you know I am the positive, happy go-lucky girl. I am the ‘extra’. I am not the one to get bogged down by the media or the negative nay-sayers. Yet, here I sit after a week…a week, in which I’m not quite even sure how to describe it.
I’m frozen–trapped in a horrible nightmare. As a young girl, I heard of awful times like these. I was educated on protests, movements, and so much more. I thought that we, as a country, were past this. Just a few months ago, our country was coming together. We were supporting small businesses, remembering lives of lost loved ones, finding solutions of ways to unite during these scary, unknown times.
And, now…just like that. We stand not united but divided.
I don’t want to believe it, but it is the reality. It’s not a nightmare of my sleep but a nightmare of my reality. As an educator, as an aunt, as a role model, i is not what I want for our youth. I do not teach on such behavior; I do not live with such behavior; I do not act on such behavior. How can I continue to shape our future when we live in fear? How can I move forward when I feel we, as a society, have taken a gazillion steps backward?
I am not a little girl anymore. I cannot be naive. I cannot be part of the problem.
What can I do? I can control what I can control. I have spent a lot of thought, before this post, reflecting on what I can control during these conflicting times as a leader and a role model.
- I can educate myself by saying less and listening more. When I volunteered at Hospice in my teen years, I learned that the phrase ‘I understand’ should be avoided at all cost. This piece of advice has stuck with me into my early adult years. It is so true! You do not understand what someone else is going through; we cannot act as if we do. Everyone experiences trauma, life, in different ways. Avoid saying ‘I understand’ and simply lend a listening ear.
- As you listen, you may not agree but you can learn to agree to disagree. Empathize. Put yourself in their shoes. Have educated conversations; do not deny the conversations from happening.
- Understand that all lives matter. As a foreign language educator, I have prayed and hoped that my students see beyond the borders, past the accents, the skin color, the cultural differences. I have educated and valued what lies beneath. I have formed relationships, friendships, with people all around the world. Appreciate the lives of everyone because everyone has a story. All of those stories, unique to one another, create chapters in this amazing book of life. Each story, like each life, is important to carry on this masterful work of life.
- Learn from one another. As we grow to appreciate all lives and all human beings, it is important to learn one thing (if not more) from one another. No matter the race, no matter the viewpoints, we can all learn something from one another. Through my friendships, I have learned countless life lessons…patience, appreciating life’s beauty, keeping life simple, my positive outlook, and so much more…
- Even during these scary times, I have learned to let my guard down. Just because some individuals may have chosen poor decisions recently, it does not mean all individuals choose these decisions. I choose to still believe in humanity. I choose to still trust. I continue to treat my neighbor like I want to be treated. I still choose to lead with my values.
For me, this past week have been days of confusion, anger, sadness. I have spent the week grieving, allowing myself the time to feel. Give yourself that time. It is okay to be scared. It is okay to be stuck, frozen. It is okay to feel numb.
But, it’s not okay to stay stagnant and angry. I have spent time reflecting on how I, grounded in my morals and values, can move forward as a leader and a role model for our future generations. I have chosen to move forward, leading in the ways expressed above. I encourage you, I challenge you, to do the same. Take the time to reflect and process; and then, figure out how you plan to move forward.
After all, as educators, we are notorious for coming together. We are one; we act as one. That is what makes our profession so remarkable. We are the problem-solvers. We are the creators and shapers of the future. We are the tiebreakers!
This. This, we will figure out. We have to, because our youth deserve better. Moving forward, the important thing to remember is what Charles R. Swindoll reminds us, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you will react to it.”
How will you react?