What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words Ferguson Missouri? I don't think of police and guns and black and white and six bullets to the head and burning buildings. No, I think of people who desperately want to be told that their lives matter, that they matter.
Michael Brown was an 18-year-old kid with the future ahead of him and a family who loved him. His life matters. Darren Wilson is a 28-year-old guy with the future ahead of him and a wife and kids who love him. His life matters. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say something pretty crazy. Are you ready? Your life matters. You matter. When is the last time you heard that? We are really bad at saying it, here on this place we call Earth, so I'll bet it's been a pretty long time.
In Ferguson Missouri, we have an unarmed African-American kid get shot by a white police officer. Whether you believe that that is truly what happened that day or not, whether you believe that there were outside circumstances around that event or not; it is a fact that African-American people are at least twice as likely to be shot at and incarcerated than their white counterparts. And yet, there are people that say that there is not a problem.That's enough to make any member of that race feel invisible. Also in Ferguson Missouri we have a young police officer who was just trying to do his job, trying to get back to his young family. And yet, because of the events that took place on August 9, 2014, he felt the need to resign from the police force because his family was being so badly threatened. That's enough to make any individual feel worthless and invisible.
What about you? What makes you feel invisible? As a kid growing up in a wheelchair, I would come home from school some days and realize that I hadn't said a single word to anyone because not one person said a single word to me. And when people did talk to me, it was because they either felt sorry for me or they wanted to tell me what an inspiration I was. **** TANGENT WARNING*** I just have to say this because I don't think I've said it yet on this blog, and then I promise we will get back to our story. Please do not ever tell someone that they are inspirational because of their disability. It is perhaps the biggest punch in the gut you can ever give someone. Let me explain why. Most of the time when a person with a disability is called inspirational, it is because they are doing things in spite of the disability, i.e. going to school and getting good grades. The reality though, is that we are doing nothing different than what anybody else in this world is doing. We are living life with the bodies that we had been given. Ours just may happen to be a little bit more useless than yours. I am inspirational because my legs don't work and I still go to school? No. It doesn't work that way. That would be very similar to me telling someone who is able-bodied that they are inspirational because they are going to school. That's weird right? Yes. But it's only weird because he has what most people would consider a fully functioning body. My going to school with one functioning limb and three useless ones does not make me any more inspirational. I have never had a body with four working limbs, I don't know what it's like, just as most able-bodied people don't know what it's like to function with one working limb. As such, I have done nothing in spite of anything related to my disability. I am simply living my life using the body that I have. Just like you. If you ask most disabled people they will agree with me. So please, find a different words to use when complimenting someone, or find a different reason why they inspire you. Because I guarantee you, there is so much more to that person sitting in that chair, or walking with that limp, then the fact that they are sitting in that chair or walking with that limp.*** END OF TANGENT*** So, you get the point. I hate the word, and if you use it to describe me, I will feel a strong desire to punch you in the face. Now, back to our story :-).
I felt invisible because I felt like no one actually saw me for me. They saw the inspiration, and not the person. Again, I ask: what about you? Maybe you're like me, and your story is very similar to mine. Maybe you were/are the kid who gets bullied everyday at school for whatever reason. Maybe you were/are the kid whose dad left and you can't shake the feeling that its your fault. Maybe you're the guy whose friends keep getting sick and you're powerless to do anything to stop it. Maybe you're the guy who has no friends. Maybe you're the girl who can't seem to get it right in the eyes of your parents. Or maybe you're the parent and you feel like you've failed your kid. Who are you? What makes you feel helpless/invisible. I don't know, but my guess is that you do.
Whether you believe in a divine creator, and thus the fact that you have been intentionally placed on this earth or not, the fact remains: you are here. You are a human being on this planet, and your presence here has made a difference in this world. Don't believe me? You made someone a mother, you changed her life for nine months at the very least. You are someone's friend. Even if you're the kid with no friends. Have you ever held the door open for someone? It is entirely possible that in doing so, you made their day, and in that moment you were their friend, and in doing so, you may very well shown have someone that you see them in a world where it is so easy to feel invisible. That's powerful. You are someone's role model. I can guarantee you this one. Even if it may not seem like it, there are people in this world who see you, people who not only see you, but like how you do life, and therefore look up to you. All this to say: you are part of someone's story. We all have a story and that story helps to shape how we view this big scary world So. Let that sink in for a second. You are part of someone's story. That's pretty far from invisible.
In Ferguson Missouri, and really all over the country, people are burning buildings because they don't feel seen as a result of the recent verdict. What do you do? Do you listen to and believe the negative words of others? Do you speak those words to others? Maybe those words come from you. Do you tell yourself you're worthless and invisible? Maybe you do actually burn buildings. Maybe drugs or alcohol make it easier. I don't know, and I don't care. Stop. There are people in this world who see you, and people to whom you matter. A lot. There are a lot of stories that would be different if you weren't here. Know that.
Maybe I am oversimplifying Ferguson. But at the most basic human level we have a kid who was shot. When pictures of him partying with drugs in his hands started to surface, people started to say things like "looks like he wasn't so innocent after all!" like it was some victory. Like that makes his life any less important than anyone else's. It doesn't. On the other side, we have a police officer who shot a kid. And suddenly his life becomes so unimportant that its ok to threaten not only his life, but the lives of his wife and kids. Its not. These two lives are just as important as yours. No more, no less. No one truly knows what happened that day, and in the days, weeks, and years leading up to it, except for these two men. These guys had stories too. Respect that.
Maybe I am overgeneralizing to the world, but I am starting to realize that there are people in this world who truly don't know that they are important to those around them. And that is not ok. So, I will end this ridiculously sappy post by saying: if someone is important to you, tell them. it might feel weird, but for as awesome as you think they are, it is entirely possible that they are just as clueless in knowing how important they are to you. Be kind today. Let someone know that you see them.
Your regular, slightly more comedic, slightly less politically correct, programming will return next time.