In a couple of days I will be 63. I have never said this, but I have had an awesome and extremely successful career in business. Though an accountant I was not a beaner. The multimillion dollar companies I worked for thrived, shareholders made money, CEOs made bonuses. They did so because I chose not to focus on the numbers and cost savings. I focused on the people. I used the numbers to tell the stories. The employees thrived and so did the proverbial bottom line. Success and profit do not have to be at the expense of the people, but it does come at a “cost” – you have to see people.
I am now a mental health counselor who specializes in trauma. I cannot tell you how often I have had to reach for my thermos of coffee and take a sip to hide the instinctual gag reflex. How can you not gag, scream or wail when a child tells you of neglect, abuse, and sights they have witnessed, as if they were telling you what they had for breakfast….assuming they had breakfast. I wish so I could tell you the stories of the children and adults. I cannot. I can only say, if you lived a day in my office, you would never be the same. You would never look at a silent child with no spark in their eyes, at an adult with their head bowed not daring to look you in the eyes as they use their less than $100 in public assistance to buy food for the month. My city is poor. We have few resources. Even our human services has cut back on investigating abuse because they have no funds or people. I fear it will only get worse. But, I have seen the healing, the miracles, and the awakenings that occur when another is seen and welcomed.
I cannot even write to you of the rage I feel right now with our social and political climate. I cannot even write to you of why I have been silent for almost three months. To do so would risk my work as a mental health counselor. I have to keep my values, life style, and beliefs in silence. If you have even looked at my blogs, you will find it all there. Instead of me and those I sit with every day, I write of nature. Like numbers, I have used nature to tell their story. To tell my story. I have tried to let you see.
I can say I grew up in the south during the civil rights movements and the challenges made against a government that did not see people. I have witnessed the burning crosses. I have witnessed the Klan driving through the streets at night with their dome lights on so you can see their hooded figures. I have seen Blacks divert their gaze thinking themselves unworthy. I have taken a Black friend to my white Baptist church and watched her shunned….until they realized she was blind and then it was “ok” because they could have pity. Damage done though. She felt unwelcomed. Who I am has put me beneath the stick of discrimination, hostility, abuse, and rejection more than once. But I truly thought our nation had made strides. I thought we were finally able to see.
But now, as I prepare to turn 63, my heart weeps for our country, the world, and the precious earth. Exacerbating the external events are the changes I confront. I just renewed my driver’s license for five years. It will probably be the last time. My vision worsens. I cannot grip things. I no longer can walk as I did. My sanctuary and solace has lost its whispers. I may have to return to the business world because of work related issues, but who will hire an old woman? What about my vision? Where can someone with my lifestyle and beliefs go and safely work given the political and social climate? Our worship of youth. Who will see what I can do and hopefully, not see who I am?
I have three Masters Degrees: Anthropology, Accounting, and Mental Health. A simple truth I learned with my Masters in Anthropology has been applicable to each of the others. When we reject “the other” – someone different- based upon external differences, we will reject and be blinded to the differences among ourselves. When we reject the “others” we are certain to be blind to the needs of all. We fear Muslim terrorists because they are easily identified, but where is the terrorism? I could cite the amazing statistics on rape, child abuse, domestic violence, poverty, homelessness and so many others. The global scale of what we are doing to ourselves, our children, elderly, etc. – with a blind eye- makes terrorist attacks look like a slap on the wrist.
The poor are refugees. The neglected are refugees. Those with different beliefs are refugees. I have been silent for three months, because I have felt like a refugee. My rage equals my compassion and strives to dominate. Tomorrow I will sit with refugees of a proclaimed Christian and democratic nation who are refugees in heart, soul, body, and resources. We will sit together. My rage will be quiet. I will hold their hearts tenderly, honor their pain, and hopefully awaken their healing. Sacred moments of paradox. I get to see them. To do so, I must be unseen because we have allowed our society to deem the healing companion’s essence as unfit. I can accept that in those eight or so hours. But when I walk outside those doors… like them, the Muslims, and all “the others” I too, am a refugee.
Thank you for letting me peak out.
Know, I truly do see you even when silent.