My head is full of blog posts from so many recent experiences. It’s time for a release. I write with music playing in the background. The music moves me and helps me feel things in a deeper, more sincere way. Other distractions fade to black, while memories from long ago begin to well up within my heart and mind. Everything starts to feel connected.
So many of my recent experiences have revolved around meeting with people who are struggling with issues that are indescribable. It is hard to find the words that best detail their pain. Hopelessness and despair fill the silence. The wars they have been waging feel like they have long been lost.
Imagine visiting a city with a population of 102,000 people. You realize that something is definitely different about this town as you begin to drive around. You can feel the tension in the air. The streets look as if they have been on the receiving end of mortar fire. Potholes two feet deep and the same in diameter litter the roads, making it nearly impossible to navigate. Someone years ago decided that fixing the streets was no longer a priority. The grocery stores have all moved out and places like Jimmy Johns and Dominos no longer deliver for fear of their safety. We were in town for 72 hours and didn’t see one police officer.
The city of Flint is in a state of crisis and has been so for decades. We went door to door delivering water to people who were in the most severe need. What they needed most though didn’t come in the water bottles we were delivering. They desperately needed to be reassured that somebody cared; that even one person was out there paying attention and cared enough to do something for a community that has long been silenced. Their greatest fear was to be forgotten.
People begged for us to stay. “Please come in. Just sit for a few minutes. Keep the water. Just stay.”
This would never have happened in Dubuque, Iowa. We live in a city full of people with voices that are heard and respected. In cities where the poor, black and brown are the majority, those voices are not heard. They have no real influence or power. They don’t fear being forgotten. No, they realized long ago that they never mattered enough to be forgotten in the first place. And the silence from the people who can change this reality is deafening.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” —-Martin Luther King.
I had just finished a session with the Chicago Cubs and noticed one of the guys hanging around afterwards. He thanked me for the training and shared his very personal story of what it was like growing up in his home as a child. Tears began to well up as he shared the pain he felt living in an abusive home and how those experiences and the lack of support has shaped him into the “shell of a man” he is today. He quickly ran out of words while the sadness that he has felt for years began to fill the room.
Where were the friends and family in this man’s life that could have been that support he so desperately craved? Surely someone along the way knew of his struggle. Why did they remain silent? Why do I remain silent when around others that are filled with pain and sadness?
I’m afraid. My fear keeps me silent. My guess is that your fears work the same way. We need to do better. We must. And not just for others, but for ourselves as well.
“Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. Because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping. And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains. Within the sounds of silence….”