I have been given a lot of reasons not to like Christians. I wish I could say I know in my heart God is real and Jesus loves me, but no one really knows that for sure, and I am a very logical, practical, girl. I always have been.
When I was a teenager, I went to youth camp every summer. The Pentecostal kind. At the end of the service each night, I would watch all of the other kids flock to the altars. They’d be there all night; slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, crying, and holding hands, and I’d just be in my seat… watching.
I remember one year, I made sure I was “slain by the Holy Ghost.” I thought people would think something was wrong with me if I kept choosing to stay in my seat. Everyone else was hugging the concrete, so I faked it. It hurt like hell when my head hit the ground! (Note to self: Make sure you have somebody there to catch you.) I never tried a second time around.
My last church sealed the deal on my view of Christian organizations. Around age fifteen, I decided church wasn’t the place for me. I began to see through it.
I had just signed a ministry contract. I thought it over for a week before I finally committed. They included a whole clause about tobacco use, and I did not want to be dishonest by alleging that I wouldn’t use it. I was an underage smoker.
I told my youth pastor my dilemma and he encouraged me to step into leadership anyway. I poured myself into the youth group. I spent my weekends and summers at the church. I lead national See You At The Pole day at high school, helped organize the first statewide youth rally in our town and led praise and worship.
Yet, the very second that I was placed in an Oklahoma psychiatric children’s center, my family-owned church deemed me unworthy to serve. I wasn’t worthy enough to be a leader. I wasn’t even worthy enough to sing in the choir. People like me aren’t worthy of positions like that.
“Like me” meaning suicidal. People, like me, who struggle with the impacts of trauma, we’re tormented. In the eyes of the church, we’re sinners in need a deeper relationship with God and a closer walk with Jesus Christ. We’re not worthy of anointing, love, or light.
So, there I was — shunned at Christmas. I wasn’t even allowed to sing in the church cantata! I couldn’t possibly worship God with my voice. It was spotted. The choir director did her best to pretend she wasn’t judging me as she stopped me in the bathroom and told me,
It’s for the best.
That is the same thing the youth workers on the children’s behavioral unit said. And how many times did my church leaders or church family come to see me? Not once. Who came to visit outside of my parents? Nobody. Did any of them confirm or hear me say that I wanted to die or that I had made an attempt on my life? No. Nobody asked me.
After that, I was behind in school six months before graduation. I lost my only social outlet, and I worked until 2 o’clock in the morning nearly five days a week. I tried to hold onto the church and the fake smiles they all seemed to master. But every time I dared to attend, I was blinded by darkness.
It was full of judgment. We made the same judgments in our family. A lady in our church was dating an ex-convict and living with him out-of-wedlock and wanted to serve in the church. They wouldn’t allow her. They asked her not to return until she got her life right with the Lord. The sad thing is, the deacons and youth ministers were judged the same way. It was the same way the pastor treated his children.
When we’re younger, we’re not deaf and we’re not blind. I meticulously watched people my entire life. No one in the church or the family bothered to get to know me. They didn’t then. They don’t now. I was never accepted into their church… or family. Not since that new poor-little-adopted-girl smell wore off.
While the last three years have found me verbally open about it and in public confrontations on social media platforms, I find it all ironic. All this judgment as if they know who I am, all my sins, and my soul’s darkness. Yet, here I am shining the brightest light.
Not once did those who served in our church tell me I was anointed or called, but they had plenty to speak over my sisters. I must have been really terrible at faking it. The only part of the church I embraced was worship. My voice. I lived and breathed for the youth group and music.
Since my birth, people have prophesied over my sisters and me and stamped our lives with scripture. I remember each time. The last person to speak anointing over the three of us girls was Ms. Brown. She was a vibrant lady. She professed God would use each of us; one of us would write, one of us would sing, and one of us would preach His word. I always liked her.
While people routinely praised and ordained my sisters, purpose in my life was merely remnants written in cards from my foster parents, DHS workers, or people from the church, like Lydia. She prophesied Psalm 100 over my life. Years later, after dad gave me a box of our adoption records and collective other things, I found an old card addressed to a younger me. “Charity.” Mrs. Brawner, my foster mom, penned Psalm 101 inside. All those notes and cards stopped by the age of five.
What do I do today, even though I don’t get to feel the warmth of the sun on my face or know what it’s like to face the world every day, much less face myself in the mirror? Write, sing, and … preach.
I am a preacher. I send God’s love out into a dying world, and I don’t throw conviction or scripture, but I shout His word. When I speak, people listen, and I have a powerful voice! The world is my church.
Funny how home became my prison. Blame mental health (or religious culture?). Today, I have a full congregation. And we don’t worry about building funds, smokers, gay people, or offering plates. We don’t abandon suicidal children, addicts, or whores. We serve.
I guess that is the kind of sinner I am. I shine brightly from all the way inside of a dark, forgotten, apartment. And on the days I remember to pray, it’s usually to ask Jesus what happened to all of His lighthouses.
It was 4 am, and I was just getting ready to lie down and beat the clock. My toddler was determined to win the battle of sleep, and that’s when the first #HeterosexualPrideDay tweet found its way to my feed on Twitter.
Without really thinking, I tweeted this:
Dear Straight Person Who Finds #HeterosexualPrideDay Amusing,
Talk to me after you’re targeted, raped, or killed for your sexuality.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a funny thing. Sometimes it hits you before you really know it. In every area of my life, I’ve fallen apart. But I didn’t understand why until just now.
See, in two days, June 28th, it will be the 3 year anniversary of the day my ex-partner left without warning and never looked back… 9 days before I became a mother.
Two days after that, June 30th will be the first anniversary of the first time anyone other than my father and my rapists have taken their hands and fists to my face.
July 6th will be the day I learned my dream of becoming a mother would be the most humiliating, horrible, and hardest day of my life. It was the day that would spend every single day afterward saving me. It is the day I gave birth to Lanna Mae. I still cannot believe one year has passed (…much less three!).
My partner leaving and my child’s birth forced the return to my hometown. September 18th makes two years since I found my father’s handprints on my daughter. On that day, I ran to my Sister.
August 27 is the day that changed my whole life. It was the day I was violently sexually assaulted. I went to work for two or three days… before I felt much.
You think you have control over your heart and your mind and your soul, but the truth is, you don’t. You think you can handle it because you understand it, but understanding isn’t enough.
I went on to go to therapy for six years following my assault in 2007.
After the birth of my child in 2013, I accidentally typed “PTSD” in the Facebook search bar while trying to Google how giving birth might impact the symptoms of complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder.
I accidentally stumbled into a Facebook group that embraced me. More than anything, they responded to me in such a way that I learned—I saw—my voice mattered. I wasn’t crazy. I was actually pretty smart!
August 27, 2013, I started my first day of college… online. Mentally, I grew more in a year than I had grown in my life.
Truth be told, I knew I was smart. I excelled at my job, but sexual assault opened Pandora’s Box. It’s hard to work with traumatized youth and addiction when you’re fighting for survival.
It cost me my job. My job was my life. Thank god Facebook ended up giving me feet. Because it opened the door to so much. More so, it opened my eyes.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get the life I dream of. I don’t know if I’ll make it to age 45. I don’t know if Psychology is what I want to do with my life… or if it is what I do with my life every day and I’m majoring in the wrong thing for the way the Powers that be need me to use it.
I don’t know if I should even be in college or if I’m there because I’m trying to find answers for myself and my own life. I’m too smart.
The kind of smart where you think you have it all together, you can beat the odds, you can do it yourself and not fall apart.
Then one night, you have a flat tire, no family, an anxiety disorder (symptom, they mean), and you run out of smokes, and that’s all it takes to almost rattle you enough to take your own life.
That’s PTSD and it’s not a disease. It’s life broken and scars left by broken people.
I do not walk with my feet. I walk with my fingers.
Leave it to Oklahoma legislators to put on a show when it comes to the state’s mental health.
At the 2016 Governor’s Veterans Services Symposium, Governor Mary Fallin padded the state’s mental health crisis with good old-fashioned Oklahoma fluff.
We have increased access to mental health and established the Oklahoma Suicide Prevention Council.
As she stood to speak on behalf of the men and women of my state who have served this country and those we have lost, I was angered and insulted on behalf of every Oklahoman who struggles with mental health, especially our veterans.
The lives of our loved ones depend on the changes Oklahoma politicians create. Do they really think we do not notice when doors are open or closed or when we invest more in our roads than we invest in the people who pay them to stand in that office?
Trust me, we notice when our veterans sleep on the street.
What Governor Fallin meant by “increased access” is that Oklahoma House Bill 1697 was passed, permitting her to sign the Labor Commissioner Mark Costello Act into action. What she meant to do was pat herself on the back.
Meanwhile, those receiving state-funded services through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse are at risk of being legally compelled to shove pills down their throat. Whatever happened to that “recovery-oriented” approach?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”
Yet, if the original House Bill 1697 had been passed, every Oklahoman who struggles with mental health would have lost the right to live a “self-directed” life and make their own healthcare decisions. That right based on a few flexible words, which leave Oklahoman vulnerable.
As outlined in The Oklahoman, for a person to qualify under the terms of this act, he or she must be,
‘Unlikely to survive’and ‘unlikely to participate in treatment.’
I struggle with mental health.
I also currently receive state-funded mental health services. When Oklahoma cuts nearly 24 million dollars from the state’s mental health budget within six short months, leaving more than 73,000 people without access crucial life-sustaining services, it makes me concerned about survival. Not just for myself, but also for 23,750 Oklahoma veterans living below the poverty line and depending on the state’s mental health services to help them survive. So, let’s get real about mental health and stop mucking around!
We cannot afford for our Governor to cover up the blood our veterans have spilled, just so her political agenda and reputation can stay sound. We also cannot afford to regulate mental health changes introduced by former
We cannot afford for our Governor to cover up the blood our veterans have spilled, just so her political agenda and reputation stay sound. We also cannot afford to regulate mental health changes introduced by former government officials driven by the grief of losing a child; no matter how tragic it was (or how heartless I sound!).
In a recent review of Oklahoma’s mental health crisis and an interview State Mental Health Commissioner Terri White, Fox News reported, “one in four people struggle” with mental illness, and Commissioner White expressed,
Treatment works if you can get in the door.
Yet it seems like the only people who are “unlikely to participate” in treatment are the very people who should be opening should be opening that door.
Taking control away from those who receive or are in need of mental health and substance abuse services does not increase access to care.
It increases fear.
Consumers who receive mental health services will be more unlikely to communicate when there is a crisis or they are in need of higher-level services, out of fear of state-controlled treatment, rather than recovery-based, trauma-informed care.
It sends the message to those waiting for help or in need of care that if they get involved with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, they might be deemed “unlikely to survive” and forced into state-controlled psychiatric care.
It silently exposes incarcerated individuals to the possibility of misuse or abuse by law enforcement or other court-appointed officials in charge of behavioral health services while under state care.
The Costello Act sends a message to those who do not struggle with mental health about those of us who do. It sends the message that people with mental illness are dangerous, unstable, and should be reprimanded and feared.
It fuels every stigma associated with mental illness that victims, survivors, and advocates have been trying to shatter for years! More importantly, it slams doors. Doors we should be racing to open. Terri White puts into perspective,
Commissioner Terri White puts things into perspective,
We should absolutely be concerned that the suicide rate is going to begin to climb back up again in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma suicide rate already surpasses the National average by nearly 5 percent. One in every five suicides is someone who put his or her life on the line to fight for our country, to fight for this state, and to keep us all safe.
So, I just want to say to the leaders of this state, how many more lives will be lost while you feed us lines about increased access to services you are cutting state funding for?
I say not one more! Rise up, Oklahoma. It is time to secure our survival.
I am an Oklahoma woman. One small voice in the middle of the Bible Belt, in a city known as the Heart of Oklahoma. I used to believe this was as far as my voice could ever reach. Then, I found out I was pregnant.
Nine days before my daughter’s birth, my partner left and never returned. I could have succumbed to the pain and anger I felt, but I didn’t. I had my first child, moved homes, became a college student for the first time and discovered the meaning of being called “Mom.”
That’s when I realized my voice could reach further than I had imagined — it must.
My daughter is 1-year-old, and every day, I grow more fearful and worried about what her future might hold. If something happened to me today, who would stand up for my daughter tomorrow? Who would protect my child for me?
This week, I realized, no one will stand for my daughter unless she becomes another hashtag that goes viral.
Yesterday, Stacy Wright and Danielle Brown led a walkout and protest to present the Norman High School administration with an urgent call-to-action and one very real message:
We will stand for our daughters because you didn’t.
While speaking with Stacy, the voice of the mothers, she emphasized their anger and shock at the lack of action taken by the teachers and other members of the administration.
She expressed that the #YesAllDaughters viral campaign is not about the way the Norman Police Department is handling the investigation; it’s about the school allowing the victims to be bullied. Bullied to the point where they no longer felt like they could return to the classroom.
By the end of the protest on Monday, three victims became four victims. Another one of our daughters became a victim of violence.
On August 9, Lesley McSpadden lost her son, Michael Brown. After the decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed Brown, McSpadden reacted to news that her son will not receive justice with the same intensity and emotion to the ruling.
As she screamed and wept in disbelief and anger, millions of us stood and raised our hands and voices along with her.
When her son hit the ground in a storm of unmerited violence and bullets, the people of Ferguson, MO learned that their voices can reach further than their hometown — they must.
On Saturday, the parents of Tamir Rice sat in the hospital with their 12-year-old son. They sat beside him, hoping and praying for God to spare his life, after he was shot two times in the chest by a police officer.
Tamir had responded to police with a childlike response; he put his hands down to his waistband and pulled out his fake gun. Even the officers of the department confirm it was never aimed at police.
On Sunday, those parents mourned the death of a son. Another one of our children becomes a victim to violence.
This is our culture.
Now, news networks are careful to specify “rookie cop” when telling the public how another one of our children lost his life. As if being a rookie makes it alright.
As if we won’t notice the black demographic that’s been targeted over and over, while we pretend the Civil Rights Movement erased bigotry, racism and hate from our nation.
Schools hide behind politics and professional agendas after failing to protect the students, while getting paid from the pockets of the parents of children they are obligated to protect. They blame the victims. They laugh at the students. They ignore the bullies and the rumors they hear in the hall.
Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions.
You’re damn right, we’re angry!
So, how do we respond?
They’re Our Children!
Violence is trending, and there’s no hashtag to say it, so allow me.
We have a culture of violence and a tolerance of injustice.
We spend a lot of time acknowledging gender roles and fighting for rights: “Stop the violence against women!” But, we forget our children are boys and girls. Children are children.
When one child suffers, as parents who have held the same small hands and loved the same small hearts, we should be front and center when it comes to speaking out against any and all violence.
Black or white, boy or girl, teen or toddler, well-behaved or not, every child depends on our voice. We are the parents.
We’ve been so busy sticking to one cause or side for so long when it comes to the subject of domestic violence, we’ve neglected to see the bigger picture. We have tunnel vision when it comes to the stats.
Domestic violence affects 12.7 million people each year — men, women and children, alike. Violence doesn’t discriminate; it has no lines. The corruption is not in the gender, it is in the people.
It’s time for men and women to drop their battle signs and hold up a new one:
NO MORE CHILDREN. NO MORE VICTIMS. WE ARE PARENTS.
I stopped supporting the fight to end violence against women. It’s time to end violence against all people.
It was just after Thanksgiving. My head was pounding, and I was freezing as my feet hit the pavement running.
My parents had gone to my grandma’s house for leftover turkey and dressing. I stayed home, eager for the time to myself.
While they were enjoying their family dinner, I took a bottle of Tylenol: 350 capsules. It didn’t help matters much that I had taken a muscle relaxant from my mother’s collection.
I wasn’t suicidal.
I had a migraine from running.
At least, that is the story I told.
By the time my boyfriend found me, my body temperature had dropped, my lips were blue and I was freezing.
I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
When I was 15, medical professionals tried to tell me that it was “depressive disorder.” Even then, I knew better.
While on Facebook, some days, just viewing my profile can cost me an entire day or a few hours. It’s one day one minute, and the next minute, it’s Tuesday.
The days just disappear and so do the hours. Facebook regularly prompts me to update my profile and poses this question:
What are some of your favorite memories?
I should mention . . .
I also have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
As an adult, I have learned that extensive physical and emotional trauma have conditioned my brain to a specific, organized, way of thinking.
Some days, it feels like it did the same to my emotions.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what at the time, but something changed just before I started seventh grade. I stopped going by my first name. I adamantly went by my middle name and became verbally aggressive if challenged otherwise.
Please, call me, ‘Grace.’
I also took a creative writing class that year. When we returned from Spring break, we were assigned a writing project prompted with this question:
What was the favorite part of your Spring break with your family?
In tears and confused, I approached the teacher’s desk and quietly whispered that I had nothing special to tell about my Spring break.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
I can’t remember what happened that year. There were many hard years. My counselor tells me,
We have a way of blocking the hard parts out.
I’d like to know what she considers as hard.
The teacher told me to write about any happy memory with my family instead. On that day, I realized I didn’t have any happy memories—not one.
Not that I never had any happy moments, that is just how my mind works.
As a teenager, if had succeeded in taking my own life, would the decision have been ethical? Would it have been right or wrong? After all, I was the victim of an abusive culture and upbringing, innocent in my youth and my thinking.
I was a child.
If mental health did not play a role, but rather a pure response to real trauma, would you tell a child he/she is selfish for escaping abuse the only way the child knew how or does the abuse give a logical and acceptable justification to suicide?
Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act (eg, the physician provides sleeping pills and information about the lethal dose, while aware that the patient may commit suicide.)
If the physical need for an escape from pain or the fear of the pain that is coming is an ethical justification for suicide, then, wouldn’t the same be valid in the case of a teenager escaping physical abuse or other trauma?
If suicide is justifiable for any reason, what gives anyone the authority to govern who and who does not deserve to choose if they live or die?
If an adult, undergoing extensive medical treatment for a terminal condition, can choose to end his/her own life at will, why would an adult undergoing daily pain and torment not also deserve that same right?
Wouldn’t it be “ethical” to determine that is for the greater good of all who are hurting to cease suffering, if possible?
The problem is human nature. It makes the majority believe that the method by which death is achieved is not moral.
I would by lying to say that I am not torn on the topic. Losing a loved one to suicide feels like a shock to the heart. It feels like an injustice, like a life was stolen.
A close friend who lived in my neighborhood was shot in the head during the summer of 1996. His name was Michael Lime. At first, they tried to claim it was suicide. Then, there was rumor and speculation of murder. In the end, it was chalked off to boys playing with guns.
But nobody really knows because we don’t talk about it.
Why do we fight against the justification, ethical theory and legality, of suicide being socially acceptable?
If we determine and declare that suicide is an acceptable way of dying, what message do we send our children, friends and family, when they reach out during that moment when life feels like too much?
Fifty-six was the amount of time that I was able to stomach the altercation that transpired between Ray Rice and his fiancé, Janay. As I sat and watched the video on TMZ, I wasn’t shocked that another story of domestic abuse made the news.
In just twenty-seven seconds, Ray rendered her unconscious as he delivered one swift, left hook, punch to her face. She collapsed against the elevator rail and slid down to the floor. She didn’t move.
I should have stopped watching then, but I didn’t.
I continued to watch.
He pulled her lifeless body across the elevator and towards the door, with one shoe missing and her feet dragging behind her. Then, he dropped her face-first on the floor with a thud. I stopped watching. I was enraged!
I was angry for every victim across the nation who has seen the hand of abuse. I was angry at TMZ for exploiting the video. I was angry at Janay Rice for marrying him a month later on March 28. I was angry that she publicly lashed out towards his team and the media via Instagram, and sent the message to every child in the world that violence and abuse are “what true love is.”
Four is the age of Adrian Peterson’s son, whose body has been at the receiving end of a tree limb, a hand, and a belt, in just the four short years that he’s been alive.
I should have known better than to go researching the latest and hottest NFL trending topic on Twitter, but still, I began scrolling.
Tears filled my eyes before I even started typing. My heart was racing with anger. I knew not to read too many articles and to know when enough was enough. I was prepared, this time, I thought.
Daddy Peterson hit me on my face. There are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.
Then, he explains to his mother that Peterson “liked switches and belts” and has a “whipping room.”
I was enraged.
Yesterday, my daughter slipped and fell on the bathroom floor. Today, I am still upset at myself for not being more proactive in protecting her. That’s my job as her mom.
I cannot fathom disciplining my child in such a way that bruises, welts, and cuts, are left on her body. I would never intentionally inflict pain upon her at all.
To Adrian Peterson, though, that’s just the way of life.
So, the NFL waited a day to announce their commencement with former White House official, Cynthia C. Hogan, until one day after Peterson delivered his preapproved and professionally articulated statement.
Making sure to allude that it’s not a big deal, but it is.
The average number of men, women, and children, who will remain or become victims of abuse or neglect by the end of this year is 5.3 million.
According to the US Department of Justice, 1,300,000 women and 835,000 men become victims of physical assault at the hands of their own lovers annually. Black women suffering at a rate of 35 percent higher than white women.
An estimated 686,000 children, in 2012, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, had newly confirmed counts of neglect or abuse — 80 percent of them at the hands of their own mothers or fathers.
Approximately 3 million reports are made annually, which include more than 6 million children.
But we all just continue to watch.
Meanwhile, CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, an “expert” defines the line between discipline and abuse as a gray blur?!
We blame our upbringing and culture while pointing our fingers at the NFL and the law for what our own hands are doing.
There is a line.
If you are disciplining your child, you are reinforcing positive behaviors and instilling respect. When you cross the line of abuse, you’re not only hurting your children, you are teaching them that it is acceptable and natural to hurt other people.
All states’ laws permit the use of ‘reasonable’ corporal punishment; simultaneously, they all prohibit nonaccidentally inflicted serious injury. —Doriane Lambelet Coleman et al.
If hitting our children results in a culture of violence and long-term disorders due to trauma (e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, racing thoughts, severe anxiety, aggressiveness, relationship issues, suicidal ideation, etc.), those are serious injuries.
If you took your fist and you punched it into the wall would it hurt you? Would you feel it? Yes. If you take a tree limb, belt or wooden spoon, and hit the wall as hard as you could would it hurt you? Would you feel it? No.
When your hands are hurting your child is bleeding and bruised— that is abuse.
That is the line.
As a parent, you draw the line and you do not cross it because you love and do not want to hurt your child.
One famous NFL player had to have a video go viral to get our attention. One is the number of people it takes to speak out and bring attention to important causes.
One is the age of my only daughter and the number of times I held her in my arms before I knew that I would fight to no end to protect her beyond measure for the rest of my life.
There is something to be said of our nation when more than 5 million of our own citizens are being abused and neglected, and we do nothing to rise together and change it.
That is until it’s the beginning of the football season and our favorite players start missing from the field.
I remember the first time I heard about a gun being taken into a school, and the children who were killed. The sadness and shock still linger in my heart as if it were yesterday, not sixteen years ago. I was barely 15 years old at the time. I was in high school, and oh, so proud! The students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, were the same age and older. But age did not prevent tragedy from changing their lives forever on Tuesday, April 20, 1999.
Many other lives changed that day, also; my life was one of them. As Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked through the halls with guns, firing off 188 rounds of ammunition, they didn’t just change lives in Colorado; they changed lives around the world and instilled fear throughout the nation.
Even when I was a child, I had a great compassion for children. I was a “stick-up for the little man” and “stand up to the bullies” kind of kid. I began distrusting adults from a very young age, but I believe in the innocence of children, and have always felt compelled to defend and protect them.
When I went to school, it was the safest place in the world, I thought! Children fight, fuss, pick on one another, and then bounce back. Teachers are there to save the day and protect them! No one could hurt us . . . right? I was wrong.
At the end of my sophomore year…
I learned that children can kill.
I was no stranger to mass destruction and horror at that point in my life. I am an Oklahoma girl. April 19, 1995, just four years before, I sat in vocal music class and waited for the teacher to arrive. It was my first class of the day, and my favorite! I remember the look on my teacher’s face as he walked in the door, head down, heavy laden, and looked up to greet the class. That day I learned something, too, as bombs shook our city and claimed the lives of 168 people.
I learned that adults can kill.
In both of these moments in history, I also remember how the world seemed to stop. I remember how teachers, friends, parents and students stood speechless, or cried for strangers — true tears! I remember how shocked we were that a gun was even in the hands of a child, much less found in our schools. We stood in awe, disgust and terror. We were enraged! We sought justice! We sought protection! We vowed: “Never again!”
And when our city was attacked at the hands of terrorists, we cried as a nation. We cried for the deaths, for the fear, but, most of all, we cried for the children. We built a memorial. We lined the fence with stuffed animals and photos. We lit candles and lined the sidewalks with art. We joined hands in prayer, hugged and cried together. We guarded our children from pictures that flooded the news. We watched speechless and they sifted through the ashes and dust. We were enraged! We wanted revenge!
It shook our foundation. It rattled our security. It threatened our lives, our children, our families. Again, even then, we vowed the same: “Never again! We are The United States of America! We will not be shaken! We will stand and defend!” There wasn’t a soul in the city who didn’t scream it. We raised our colors, lowered our flags, removed our hats, put our hands on our hearts, and we pledged our allegiance to the red, white and blue. And then what happened? We forgot.
Maybe that’s why May 24, 2014, we added another school shooting to our list, and 100 other school shootings before that.
What happened to our rage? What happened to our fight? What happened to protecting our children, our sons, our daughters, our neighbors? We became accustomed. We sat back and watched. The more often it happened, the more normal it became, until we grew comfortable and complacent. It’s not our fault… right? Wrong.
There is something to be said for a nation that sees guns in the classrooms and children lying dead at their parents’ feet, and does not rise to stand against it! We might as well be holding the gun, as a nation, as we quickly seek to justify, explain and deflect it! We blame the children. We blame the parents. We blame mental health. We blame bullies, drugs, video games and television. We simply shake our head and turn the channel, or scroll past the news on our social network feeds.
We don’t stop dead in our tracks anymore. We are no longer taken aback by it. We don’t mourn as we used to, nor do we invest too much thought. “Kids these days have no respect!” we scream, as if we are not the people who lead them. We create trending hashtags and divert attention to women and sexual assault. We take advantage of the latest trending cause “#YesAllWomen” we type and send, putting anything after the tag because it helps us gain attention. And in the days to come, we’ll dismiss it, while our children continue paying the price. Enough is enough!
If we are not willing to focus on protecting our children, even if it costs us our guns, then we do not deserve them, America!
My daughter is approaching 11 months, and I fear that one day she won’t see guns as dangerous, but as necessary; I fear that she’ll be taught that violence is normal, and to live in fear. I fear that my daughter will not know what it’s like to attend school and feel safe. I fear I will witness my daughter’s death before she has even lived her life. I’m not okay with that! We, as parents, we, as a nation, need to join together and face the facts:
People pull the trigger.
We can continue to wave them proudly with pride, and defend our “right to bear arms.” Don’t get me wrong, I believe in that right! But when we make it normal, and discount it as expected, when we put a gun in the hands of our children at the age of 5, and justify it with “they’ll need to learn someday” or “it’s just the world we live in today,” then we have lost our focus on account of our pride! It will be our children, the future of this very nation, who pay those costs!
When I was 15, I remember thinking to myself that what I was hearing about would be a part of history one day.
I never imagined we would allow it to become a way of life.
At the age of 31, I just realized the power of my own voice. It only took thirty years and one article, written by 12-year-old blogger for the Huffington Post.
Society thrives on technology and I’m the old fogey in the corner who remembers when the first cell phone came out and the World Wide Web was the latest trending hype.
Now, we have Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook , Twitter and trending hashtags, for that! Until now, I didn’t realize that the key to reaching the world with just one voice is learning to use your social networks and resources.
“Different” was the name of the article that caused an already growing revelation to transpire to the max. Marcel Neergaard has a voice. As a young member of the LGBT community, he wasn’t afraid to speak out. And he didn’t just speak, he shouted his message. He made me think about how I was using my own voice.
I could be louder.
Fortunately, someone cared enough to just say hi.
Hello. One word that helped move him to action. One word what told him that he was important. In turn, he found his voice. We all have that power—the power of a voice.
What’s the most meaningful conversation you had today? Did you know with a simple “hello” and a smile, you have the power to change someone’s life?
Marcel helped change mine, and he doesn’t even know it. My favorite part of his article came at the end:
This week I will be in Nashville for Advancing Equality on the Hill Day talking to my senator and (hopefully) representative about making schools safer for kids like me. What will you do?
When he spoke, 9000 ears listened and helped echo his message on Facebook alone. That’s just what he did on March 10th, from the comfort of his home, while sitting at a computer; and for all we know, still in his pajamas!
What will I do today, tomorrow, or in the weeks to come? I’m not sure. What will you do? Just asking yourself the question is a fine place to start.
As this week comes to a close, I have yet to reach the ears of thousands of people. I have, however, literally been awake around-the-clock. That tends to leave a plethora of time for thinking, reading, and writing.
For months now, I’ve been preoccupied with the power of the voice of the people. There are so many voice is the world and so much shouting, yet so much silence about the things that matter.
It’s as if we’ve learned to believe that our message, stance or topic of choice, is the most justified and correct or we should gain profit from acts of compassion, or we don’t bother to speak up at all.
Every voice matters.
Rarely do our words fall the same way on each ear that hears them. Listeners interpret more than just the words we speak or write. We can hope that your words will be concisely construed, but words are not what reach the ears first. Words are not what touch the heart of a person. It’s not always the message that’s the most powerful part of a message. Sometimes, it’s just the voice.
People were supportive of this writer’s LGBT advocacy and brevity to raise his voice on the matter, yes. But the loudest message he could have sent was this…
It has its pros and cons, but one of the things I like about me thing about me is that I am not title-discriminative. Meaning, I don’t really care what your professional role is in life. While I respect it, believing that I should interact with you in any other way than I would interact with someone I love and care for is senseless. At least it is in my eyes.
When elements like body language, social events, casual interactions, public or professional environments, and face-to-face contact, are removed your life, you come to fully rely on whether or not your words can make an impact.
If you can’t speak for yourself, if you can’t find a way to connect with people, you are the one who suffers. You are the one who misses out. You depend on your words to seek the help that you need. You depend on your words to open the doors to the resources you need. You count on your words to do everything a “normal” person can’t effectively communicate without.
A lot of people who become socially isolated need to be told that. They need to be reminded that they still have the power to connect. They need to be reminded that they don’t have to live up to everybody else’s expectations of the appropriate way to advocate for themselves. Because you can only go so long before being forced to surrender to social isolation or fight for yourself.
So, Professor, Doctor, Congressman, CEO, Reverend, those titles don’t really mean much to me except to expect intelligent, interesting, and challenging conversation. A few of my friends don’t know it, but they’re unofficially-ordained preachers. One wrote today about how he/she leans on this phrase:
Father, I trust you.
After telling him that I don’t lean on that line much anymore because the lie became exhausting, I felt like an asshole. I pondered why I couldn’t just hit “like” the same as everyone else.
Was I just projecting? Acting out? I mean, it’s possible. My mind is in the dumps. I don’t think I was, though. I like to think of it as indirectly teaching (or preaching).
Christians, I’m glad you trust Him, but tell me about the times you told Him you trusted Him and you were lying. Tell me what it was that broke you. Tell me how you came about meaning it the next time. Tell me what sold you, what held you together, tell me what makes you believe that line.
The Bible doesn’t tell Christians so much to around the world shouting His words as it does reiterate the fact that we should live them. Tell me the story behind how you live yours. What makes you want to repeat that affirmation?
Father, I trust you.
Why? Not who, but what is your source? Make me believe too. Or else, greater is He that is in who?
I used to worry that if I wasn’t on Twitter or Facebook for one day or if I took a social media break I would destroy everything I’ve accidentally been building. I think I was afraid people would forget me.
Maybe I was afraid I would forget myself. The me who wants to be somebody. The me who has dreams and goals and something to give back to the world. The me who made a name for herself.
Recently, I realized I’ve already forgotten. The me who was driven, resourceful, intelligent, and passionate, became a mirage of a shadow I used to be, buried under the debris of lost love and grief, and the new me keeps shoveling dirt; hiding any signs of life that might escape it. Self-sabotaging, self-destructive me.
I’ve come to embrace it. I’ve come to walk with my loss and my grief. It adorns me. I wear it like a cape around my shoulders. I sit with it in the stillness of the morning and in the darkness of 2 AM silence. I accept self-defeat with every tear that I cry while claiming that life did not break me; loss did not scathe me. My heart is not weak. I am not broken. I am carrying grief. Deflective, projective me.
I used to worry that if people could see my true reflection they would see the fraud I see. A mediocre friend, average parent, struggling student, orphaned heart crying for home; lost, lonely, less than perfect… me.
I used to worry the world would see the same me that I see and in time, they would hate and reject me as much as I hate and reject myself… while stuffing the truth beneath layers of aged loss. whiskey, and poetic wings. Disabled, enabled me.
Running from anything that will make me forget the pain in my heart and the scars on my feet. Running from anything that will paint purpose over the darkness of my own soul, so that I no longer have to carry the weight of all the things my hands can achieve. Fearful, doubtful, low self-esteemed me.
I am not broken. I am not weak.
Lies I whisper when I can’t see light reflecting off the jagged edges of human, imperfect me.
And I tell myself the world cannot see, no one knows. I tell myself it’s outside of my control and I refuse to let go as I hide the real me. I’ve not given up. I have not settled. I’ve not chosen defeat. No. Not me!