I always try to share a piece of advice with my exchange students and nieces/nephews when they return home or upon graduation. Something that I hope is meaningful enough that they can carry it with them – not just the origami dollar signs made of twenties I slip in their card.
This year was easy to find a topic – so easy that my pen ran out of ink as I wrote in the card on the way to the party. I’ll chalk it up to the fact that the pen I was using in the car was one of my husband’s that obviously didn’t want me to include the dog and the fish’s names (*insert loving husband eye roll*).
At the party for my niece, a high school graduate of 2020, I thought over and over, this really stinks for her. My mind wandered to how robbed I felt because we didn’t celebrate our daughter’s 1st birthday like we did her brother’s – surrounded by family. It is also horrible for the people that planned to get married but most of all, those that have lost loved ones in the midst of it all. It seems to deprive them of closure and the ability to grieve their own way as alone is definitely not everyone’s preferred method.
I find myself in another’s shoes… what if it were my family member on a respirator or dead due to COVID-19 and people are swirling around the issue talking about how it is a politically driven fake disease because they don’t know anyone that has had it. Not only has the death of your loved one been minimized but you are left to defend the cause of death AND grieve alone without the visitation we all used to take for granted; similarly, the same could be said for the death of a loved one at the hands of racism.
When put this way, it’s hard to deny that perhaps we’re all bad listeners with our own agendas. Are we hearing what others are saying or waiting to chime in with something we think is relevant before they even finish their statement? As I wrote in my niece’s card, it became clear to me. This year she needed acknowledgment, encouragement, understanding and closure like many other people. I encouraged my niece to hear the other side of every argument, really hear it. Research it. Listen to firsthand accounts. Understand that everyone experiences adversity and the strength you show through it is the person you will become however, adversity should never be a cornerstone of your life.
As the Netflix show, Dear White People put it, “we don’t see things the way they are, we see them how we are.” We choose what to see and how to be informed. A resistance to listen and learn is a blatant display to choose ignorance. Be an empathetic listener – open to learn about what you don’t know.
As I carved “Rupert & Zoomie” into the paper card I realized this was a very heavy message for a graduate but a powerful lesson to learn at a young age.