What It…We Listen

When I wrote my 📚book (LIFEGUARD- available on Amazon), I dedicated a few sections to 💖kindness. In one chapter, I told a story about an encounter with a woman during a trip to the grocery store. She was standing in the aisle, looking from one side to the other, while her little girl stood quietly beside her. I casually asked if I could help her find something. The rest of the story goes like this:

It turned out that the lady wasn’t looking for anything in the beverage aisle. What she needed wasn’t even on the shelf. She was searching for someone to listen to her. She was lost in her own thoughts as she walked through the grocery store hand in hand with her daughter, desperate for someone, anyone to see her. She looked into my eyes and opened her heart. Right there amongst the sports drinks and soda bottles, she poured out her troubles. I learned about the family members who used her for money, her struggles as a single mother, and her faith. The more she talked, the more tears welled up in her eyes. As they spilled onto her cheeks, I turned my attention to the little girl holding a grocery store toy in her hand, allowing the woman a chance to wipe her face without prying eyes.

We talked about life. We talked about God. We talked about trust. We talked about love. Kindness- right there in the grocery store! Before we parted ways, she thanked me for taking some time with her. She told me that she needed to tell someone about her daily trials, but didn’t know who would listen. We hugged and said good-bye. I never even got her name.”

What I left out of this story was the fact that my grocery store friend was black. I didn’t think that detail mattered to the story. She was a person with a heavy heart who needed to 💞share a bit of her world with someone, and I believed I was there to listen. I felt it was a simple, ✨positive interaction between two strangers. My whiteness shows in that assumption. She had no idea what bias I might hold, and probably had a history of interactions with white people that told her I might not lend a helping hand. When I think about the 💪courage it took for her to open up to me- a random white woman in the middle of the grocery store, the ripple effects still resonate with me.

I don’t have a quick fix for racism. There are too many layers for that. We have to start somewhere, though. I am here to listen and learn.

  • Reach out- just like the lady in Aisle 7 did. Ask questions. Allow truths to be shared.👍 We shouldn’t be afraid to tell them or to hear them.
  • Don’t act without being informed. Our 🔍theories may be off due to life experiences. Ask about what you can do or how to change without making assumptions based on your own life.💯
  • Bring up the subject with your kids. Trust me- your kids already know. After 30 years in a 🏫classroom, I can guarantee you that your kid has either seen or experienced some form of prejudice and racism. 😢They know. What kids hear in the real world often comes with them to school. They’re also savvy enough to understand what things should be said when faculty and staff are out of earshot.😞 Teachers don’t always learn about incidents until and unless others choose to tell. To a kid- that’s called being a snitch. And, my middle school students 🚫do not want to be called a snitch. We need to teach them how to talk and why it’s important to stand up. Take the time to give them the tools.✅

    If you’re looking for a place to start with your kids, how about reading a 📚book together? THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM- 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis is a one for upper elementary through middle school ages. THE HATE YOU GIVE by Angie Thomas is an excellent resource with older kids. Both 📚books have 🎥movie versions as well. Looking for a title for yourself? Check out WAKING UP WHITE by Debby Irving.

When I was a little girl, my family owned a mortuary. I grew up listening to stories about my grandfather, who was the only mortician in the area who would bury black people in the 1950s-60s. I remember hearing that he took time to learn about the deceased person and made sure to 🎉celebrate the life lost. He usually followed up the service by sharing a 🍴meal with the families. I remember being a little 😳confused. I didn’t know that he was doing something unusual for a mortician. I assumed everyone got a service after death. I didn’t understand until I was older what my grandfather was truly doing. By making sure that everyone had a proper burial, he provided more than a funeral. He did his part to make sure that every person was valued and heard regardless of race.💞

What if…we listen? Let’s ask questions (even the wrong ones, at least we’re trying) and actively listen to the answers. We must work to understand 💡what we need to know to move forward. I know I’ll be listening. How about you?💞

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