Upon encounter on Sunday, I ask a 12 year old boy I’ve worked with for three years how he is doing. He’s one of those smiling kids, with eyes that sparkle in a way that it won’t escape from your memories.
He replies that he is decent, but tells me about a serious talk he and his parents had upon racism. He then proceeds to tell me about a prostitution case, one gun scare, two recent shootings and explosives found in a vacant house in the county all within a span of two weeks. Finally, he talks about the students planning a walk out against gun violence he wants to attend and a pep rally advocating awareness towards depression and suicide that he did attend.
I cannot help but feel like there are so many aspects wrong with that one 20 minute conversation I had with him. For his age, he’s definitely well aware of our society’s shortcomings. But let’s not discuss the politics of it all. Rather, let’s visit a different spectrum and talk about loss. At the end of the day it’s the consequences that bring forth change, and unfortunately the most common consequence at hand would be death. Perhaps understanding loss better is necessary before growth.
For me, if there is one thing I absolutely excel at, it is having people I have opened my heart up to die in sudden, unexpected ways. I’ve watched classmates disappear from my classes because of extensive bullying that broke their spirit. I’ve watched a new teacher replace an old one that taught me courage, who passed from diabetes. I’ve watched the green active dot on Facebook disappear forever from an acquaintance who made the mistake of texting as she was crossing the road. The most heartbreaking one was waiting for my daily text message from one of my closest friends- who promised to stick around for a long time- to never come simply because a drunk person decided to drive.
When I’m presented with these instances, the only two dominant emotions that occur repeatedly are fear and anger. Anger is inevitable, because when you love somebody, you love them with every ounce of your being. Their presence makes you happy, right? They’re your motivation to get out of bed, to achieve things, to have goals and compete and share memories with. So of course anger will follow when they decide to disappear. Logic knows it is not them that DECIDE to disappear, but they’re gone, and you need someone to blame. In instances where there’s a second party involved, like a drunk driver or bullies, you get angry at those people. Why did they have to make the mistakes that they did, at that given time?
So then, there’s fear. Fear of emotional attachment, fear of friendship, fear of love and vulnerability. You don’t want to be angry and confused anymore. You want to be numb, make satirical jokes, be ignorant, and see the silver lining. You think you can get through it, because why not? Life is just a chain of sad events. Just go through the motions, laugh a little, get a degree, get a job, and hopefully find some happiness and success before you die. Build a wall around your heart as your defense mechanism and call it a day.
Only last week have I discovered how wrong that whole mentality even is when my mother passed and I realized I felt nothing. What kind of monster feels nothing, right? Well, a human. A human who has gone through years and years of disconnection, repression, and repeated curveballs by life itself. Now imagine a whole society filled with these hurt people, with feelings completely suppressed and have apathy towards life. There is no efficiency in a world like that. There is no growth and connection.
I don’t believe that there’s hatred in this world just because there is. I think there’s just an absence of love. We talk so much about societal problems and the villains with violence in their minds, but more often than not, those villains are the byproducts of our own society. We’re the community that nurtures in the “nature and nurture” aspect that breeds the growth of a human being. The paradox is that we cannot blame society as a whole either, because it’s comprised by individuals who all carry some form of anger towards another.
I don’t have a solution myself to implement and advocate for, but I just wanted to make the point that most of our domestic problems begin at the individual level. It begins with anger towards life and other beings, and it’s a repeating and ongoing cycle. This rapidly spreads as more and more individuals succumb to have the same conflicts and emotions. Collectively, it is what makes society untrusting and dangerous. So when I look into the sparkly eyes of the twelve year old, I see a rare hope and positivity I’ve lost years ago. And then I pray, with my entire heart, that he never has to lose that sparkle.