Monday, September 12, 2016

Living in a Country of Glass Houses

Several beautiful friends have written elegant Facebook posts to raise awareness and empower the greater community facing derision and furtive attacks from folks who feel the Slingshot of Judgment will somehow sanctimoniously get them some sort of reward. I remind myself often that you cannot make someone who chooses to be blind and deaf to reality change. You can offer perspective and hope that it hits a chord.
So today, I write this ballad.
Years ago I volunteered on the county's mental health crisis hotline. I was the lone professional stooping down to offer my free time at first. I took a call from a girl who knew she was a girl except there was a piece that did not belong. She thought she was broken, that something was wrong with her. She had tried cutting it off. My heart broke for her. I gently explained transgender. I was the first person to tell her the only wrong thing was her body goofing up its sexually expressed genes. She became less distraught as we talked, realizing that she wasn't a freak or alone. That she could have support and go through medical treatment to get the piece that didn't belong removed, that she was one of many that deal with transgender reality. When I went to the monthly meeting for volunteers it was eye opening. They had stood by outdated value systems until I went over that call. Regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs- every volunteer understood where that caller was coming from, none of them wanted any human being to feel so outcast or alone. They all listened. Transgender was new to them. After that call, that tiny county changed how it handled calls. I never knew anything about her except her voice. I hope she's smiling and that her world isn't a dark one anymore- it never should have been.
Going back further, back to when I was six. I was rambunctious. I was a small child. I loved swinging wildly on my great grandmother's macrame plant holders. I collided with the corner of a wooden table. I was in the emergency room, they had just done stitches. A teenage neighbor, a strong girl, she was there too. I had just been released from restraints. I was still in fight and panic mode. She calmed me down. She was a role model in a life full of screwed up ones. She looked sad. I saw she had just gotten stitches too. On her wrists. I asked what happened. Her mother cut in and said she broke a glass washing dishes and it sliced both wrists. Odd that the cuts were neat. Odd that the girl had an expression that shouted the words were a lie. I understood. My mom made up shit all the time. CPS was the boogeyman she would terrorize me with.  People acted like there was something wrong with the girl. The same people who begged for lies and platitudes. The ones who chose to see the two mothers as shining stars rather than scrutinizing the abandonment and emotional abuse beneath. Our struggles were different but we sat there islands that for a moment were not alone.
Years later, I heard she went to Canada and married her girlfriend. Last time I saw her she had smile lines. I hope she is still smiling.
Working in mental health I walked through the hearts and minds of those broken and struggling to find a reason, struggling for balance.
The refrain is the words of Little Billy, whose parents sexually, emotionally, and physically abused him. "I just want to help people. I want to be worth something. I want to save them. I want them to look at me and see a hero when they needed one." The hero he never had but imagined and wished for. I understand why Baum wrote Wizard of Oz. Billy was my Dorothy. His fractures could never fully heal due to limited IQ. It did not stop him from trying. He never quite understood how he was a hero to some of us on staff. He could never defeat his demons, born with both hands tied genetically behind his back. If he is still alive, he is still trying.
If only we all had his fortitude.
People shout judgements at each other. Slap labels and toss derogatory jokes like grenades with the surprised "why are you offended" reaction when you call them on it. Why aren't we teaching tolerance, empowerment, and cooperative team building? Empathy is in a drought, hate is the scent on the wind.
Who pays the price?
Unfortunately, the stones get thrown wily nily based on Memes and attention seeking headline teasers. Shots of venom to cloud the judgement; first round is always free. You pay the price in integrity.
Today, take a moment. Let go of stones. If you are going to pick up a stone instead of throwing it, try rock sculpture or perhaps putting it gently back down in respect for the millions who struggled with their personal demons and lost. The suicides. The victims of hate crimes. The victims of senseless violent crimes. Those who fought against diseases and were defeated.
For them, reach out and be open to caring for the amazing people fighting battles in their heads you have no right to judge. They are the stars that shine in my sky that inspire me to connect and keep reaching.