The pain and anguish in the world these days is overwhelming. And I confess, I am more aware because it is closer to home – in the streets of America. This pain is not any less than that of Syrian refuges, or victims of genocide in Syria, but I feel it more closely. Perhaps it is because I am American, and the idea that my country has such glaring flaws, and how those flaws have infiltrated my psyche, from years of conditioning in the American experience. I am, by nature of being trained as an American, racist. I try not to be but there are so many circumstances in which I might react from a privileged white perspective without even realizing the tone-deaf attributes of my actions or my insensitivity.
I remember as a child, about age 9. We were living in Taiwan in the early 60s, upper class foreigners. Each morning to catch the school bus, my siblings and I had to walk several blocks to catch the school bus to take us to the American School up on the mountain. After an hour and half drive, we were deposited onto a manicured campus, with mostly white children and a rare Negro child (I am speaking as we did in the 60s), and even more rare Asian child. But the wait at the bus stop was different.
The bus stop had no markings, no structure with roof or bench. Instead, it was alongside an open-air market of food vendors splattered throughout a large median between two busy streets. Colored plastic sheeting held up by bamboo poles kept the rain off the open-air fires where large woks simmered with vegetables and meat. Large white geese wandered around – caution advised because if you got too close, their wingspan was probably 6 feet and they were aggressive and scary.
As a child I was tow head blonde, as were my siblings. We were alien in coloring, clothing, and language to all those around us. I spoke some simple Mandarin, so I understood when one of the elderly vendors came bearing down upon us one day. She was wizened, assertive, toothless in places. She came screeching up to us one day yelling to all who would listen about our weird skin, our hairy arms, our foreignness. And there was nowhere to retreat to. We were literally on the curb of a busy street. My younger brother and sister were terrified. I remember digging in to someplace deep in my courage to stand strong as she approached. She grabbed our forearms, pinching them hard and pulling at the downy blonde hairs. Screeching the whole time about we were hairy – hairy was a bad thing. My vocabulary in Mandarin wasn’t that good but she was probably calling us monkeys and at the very least dirty barbarians. Everything about her was critical and derogatory.
The pinching hurt. But as I reflect on this memory that is seared in my psyche – what hurt more was being singled out for being different, and even more so, for being less than. The feeling of put down was intense. And the attention she garnered from all fellow vendors and customers was frightening. As I recall scanning the crowd, wondering who else would come barreling down on us, I remember many others shrugging their shoulders, a sort of roll-your-eyes behavior. No one else joined her abusive tirade. I also remember thinking indignantly – we are only kids! Why are you being mean to us?
I have experienced half an hour of the mistreatment of bigotry. ONE HALF HOUR. Not days, not months, not decades of systemic ingrained cultural abuse. The very thought of that drops me to my knees. The pain from that half hour charred my memories. Can you even imagine the space in one’s consciousness that is occupied by centuries of derogation, cruelty, ridicule and scorn?
As a person who aspires to being a healer, I ask myself what we can do, individually and collectively, to grow past our shameful behaviors. I admit, at times, I feel helpless. But here is what comes to me as salve and poultice for this gaping wound. First, own and celebrate your individuality. As you reflect on your uniqueness and your spark, then expand to recognize you are one flash of light from the big Sun of Source, and one fleck of stardust from the Big Bang. And, as you visualize the multitude of sparks, take in the awareness that you are one of many, a small piece of the big puzzle. As you savor those qualities that make you unique, perhaps you can gain some humility and perhaps appreciation for all other unique sparks making the big light.
Travel often to your heart space. Here you can cultivate the garden of gratitude and appreciation for all that is around us, including other two-legged beings. Gratitude for being a cog in this vast, spectacular wheel of life we are on, made more rich by all the other cogs. As you cultivate gratitude from the place of heart energy, I am certain you will expand your capacity for love and compassion. That expansion will fill your undercurrents more deeply so when situations arise that provoke feeling separate and not included, you will have a wellspring of kinder, tolerant attitude to bring forth to the situation.
Let us collectively vow to try harder, to open our awareness, to travel to the space of differences where diversity flourishes. Let us intend to be kinder, to hesitate a brief nanosecond before reacting poorly when confronted with a feeling of being less than or excluded. Let us spend more time in the heart space, connecting to all other humans on this Earth, promising to bring only our best forward. I KNOW we can do this. I KNOW we can be better. I open my heart and join you. Safe journeys.