What did you do on your vacation? For me, I spent my time trying to pay attention. I paid attention to the movement of birds and the sprouting of frogs and to the flow of water, to the weariness of my body and the joy and sadness of my days. And I took some time to pay attention to what has been happening in our nation.
Paying attention takes time and commitment. We are living in a time of forgetfulness. Outrage has become a national pastime. Acts that defame or injure are committed again and again and we yawn and await the next entertainment.
We are going to need to pay attention because we will be healing the hurts of this time for a long time. We should not forget those whose lives have been caught, wrecked and traumatized. They may be considered just fodder by the powerful and yet they are as precious as the sunrise or the frog or the person you love best.
We need to pay attention for a long time because trauma is the gift that keeps on giving. The children who have been separated from their parent. The students who have been locked in jail because they came with the wrong documentation. The youth who are incarcerated because their families could not support them and sent them or did not stop them as they made the trip alone. The young men whose lives have been lost to death or to the annihilating belief that death in the streets is imminent. The children who are growing up in the streets because housing has become a luxury for too many. The desperate people who come across the borders which allow money and drugs but not people.
This may seem like an odd choice of topic for my vacation week and yet for those of us who have experienced traumatic experience, we know the long half-life. What our nation has done will accompany those children. That has been the effect of other national decisions which continues to be part of the tapestry of my family’s life. The damage will be lasting like the last rays of the day and as impenetrable as the stars.
And as long as people have compassion and bravery, we can consider that it might be possible to interrupt these cycles. Not by looking away, not by standing apart and gawking. By paying attention and letting the truths of these lives be wrapped into the everyday fabric of ours.
Because the world has beauty does not erase its ugliness. Because the world has ugliness, we should not deny ourselves its moments of inspiration no matter how brief. Let’s pay attention to all of it.