The last scene in Forrest Gump where Forrest is talking to Jenny at her grave, he says, “I don’t know if Momma is right or if it’s Lt. Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental like on a breeze. But I think, maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”
When awful things happen in our world, I usually say very little but spend a lot of time reading about them. As a Southern girl with a conservative upbringing and a good chunk of my adult life in large, liberal cities, my Facebook newsfeed is pretty diverse to say the least. I don’t like everything I read and that’s ok. I read it anyway. I take in all this information to try and make sense of a senseless tragedy. And I think of Forrest Gump’s quote. “Maybe it’s both.”
We seem to have lost sight of both-ness as a society. We’re all so passionate about what we believe that we rarely have reasonable discussions about how to find a middle ground on hard issues. Mostly I see what appears to be a virtual yelling match of singular world views to an audience that is so tired of listening to the screams.
I asked my smart and kind 16 year old niece what she thought about the Orlando shooting. She replied that she doesn’t really pay attention to political stuff.
I was immediately heart broken. Our society has become so polar that our teenagers view the worst mass shooting since Wounded Knee a POLITICAL event. Oh, we have so much work to do.
Is it possible, I wonder, to get to a place of listening to each other? To say, “Maybe it’s both?” Maybe it’s a gun control problem, and a homophobia problem, and a male violence problem, and an extremist terror group problem? Maybe it’s a society that cultivates so much FEAR OF OTHERNESS problem.
I read about all those things and find some truth in almost all of the very diverse articles on my newsfeed.
And then I get tired of it all. Tired of the sadness and the anger and the righteousness and the anger. So I stop reading and I don’t add to the conversation. And then I’m reminded of something I recently read by Liz Gilbert.
“Turn your face stubbornly to the light and keep it there.”
Some of you are brilliant problem solvers and, if anyone is willing to listen, have profound things to offer the world on how to overcome the challenges that arise in times like these.
As for myself, I feel my job is to turn my face stubbornly to the light and keep it there. To keep showing up with love and kindess. To continue to lessen the fear of “otherness” in all it’s diverse glory. To be one of the helpers Mr. Rogers referred to in that famous quote.
I love my job as a special Ed para because I get to do all of these things (when it’s not summer). I work with children, most of whom belong to one group or another of what society calls “other.” I get to bridge the gap between them and their peers. I get to be a helper with patience and kindess and love (most of the time). And when I see students who have somewhere learned behavior of exclusivity, I have the opportunity to guide them back towards the light. To teach them that we are more alike than we are different. That kindess matters and love always wins. I have to believe in and share those truths. This world is much too dark without that hope.
So forgive me if I’m not adding to the conversation of how to solve these issues. This is what I know how to do best. And to the problem solver people of the world, please, remember when you’re on your soap box about an issue, to listen with an open heart from all sides. Because maybe the answers lie somewhere in both-ness.