• Jennifer Meliton

Warning: it's us. Part I.

It's been a minute, friends! The first few months of 2019 have been crazy for us at school, at home and definitely in the world. I'm back with a laser focus, and hope that you will join me in this walk, and grab the hands of our neighbors as we embark on the crucial work we have to do with kids, grown-ups, and ourselves. Here's a post about something we try to teach kids on a daily basis... the importance of not judging a book by the cover.Pt: I

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend. Over the weekend she had the chance to sit down with a parent from school at a social function and learned an amazing piece of information. They had been a military guard at Guantanamo Bay. WHAT? I can't imagine the things they have seen and how it has changed who they are as a person, and truly, it helped me understand so much more about where this person must have been coming from in conversations that we had engaged in. I suddenly felt terrible, because I pride myself on being open minded when I meet people, and to be honest I had judged this person as being "a little rough". Um, yes.

Someone told me once that everyone you meet has a story that can stop your heart if you just take the time to listen. And I have preached for years that you have to remember you just never know where people have been and what they have been through, but even though it's pretty much my life quest to understand people, I missed this one. Totally. We're all missing it. Whether you look down the street or across the world there is a common thread of humanity pulling through every community. It is braiding fear and trauma and crisis together, and while we rage against one another, we are actually all shouting in unison, "DO YOU SEE ME?" Not my jacket or my car or my protest sign. Me. The heart, the soul, the fear.

First-century Chinese texts sorted our emotions into seven categories: joy, anger, love, fear, sadness, disliking and liking. A recent student out of Glasgow, Scotland pared us further down into a basic four: happy, sad, afraid/surprised and angry/disgusted. That's it, friends. That is our politics, our passion, our purpose. We are that basic and we still screw it up royally on the daily.

You know how we think about people when we're on the road, right? How they drive, what they drive, who is waiting at a bus stop, how people walk down the street.... The next time you catch your brain on a riff about one of those things, play this little game. It's called, "What do you KNOW and what do you THINK". Just catch yourself going off, peg yourself down on what you really know about what you're thinking, then see how down the road that took you with what you're thinking.

Let's say you're on your way to work, running a little late. You're at a stoplight with a light blue Saturn ahead of you and the passenger and driver are animatedly talking. The light turns green, the people continue to talk as you and the dude behind you beep. So who are these people? What do you think about them? What kind of people do you think they are?

We leap from feeling that core emotion (afraid to be late/angry at the driver) to assuming what kind of person is in the Saturn in a microsecond. Feeling. Judgement.

What if we slap a sticker on that car? Student Driver. Wounded Warrior. Zombie Stunt Driver. Legalize pot. Ask me about my grand-cat. Gitmo Guard. Cancer Survivor..... do our feelings change when we know more? If we get more information can we override that basic knee jerk reaction that takes us from a feeling to an assumption?

We've all spent time at this light, friends. We're all that Saturn and we're all the car behind it. We paint pictures based on core emotions. We're that basic.

I'm asserting that we are all the problem. The hold up at the light is us.

Understanding how easy it is for our brain to make the jump from feeling to judging is crucial. We have to be smarter than our brains and take the time to look at the driver, and read the signs.

It's you. It's me.

If we can get there, we can start talking about where to go when the light turns green.

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