Sometimes my brain sabotages my convictions. I think too slowly to even come up with a clarifying question in order to give myself more time to process.
I know split-second emotional reactions are generally not positive and a quick deep breath and pause can curb snap judgements. But by the time my brain finds the words to say, it’s two days later and the moment has passed. Most of the time I fume for those entire two days trying to figure out exactly why I am so upset. And then I become even angrier after I discover the exact words I should have had access to in the original event. My brain is evil.
I wish I could take one simple deep breath, to double check, to see if this is worth sticking up for.
Yep, going for it. Or, nope, not worth it.
A little while ago, I was sitting in a meeting when my slow brain attacked. I can’t tell you what kind of meeting because I actually want to stay in this group. I need to follow the rules of keeping people anonymous or else I might get kicked out. This story is just begging to get out though, so I will carry on.
I can tell you that there was a guest speaker that day. She was giving us some updates on the larger chapter of our group. There was some discussion of who was eligible for college scholarship money sponsored by our group. She laughed when someone brought up the fact that she forgot to mention students who attended an alternative school. As in, “Ha! Those students aren’t even worth mentioning. They would NEVER even be considered by our Oh-So-Mighty Group.”
My heart started to burn.
The warmth crept up my chest and spread onto my neck. My ears turned red and my whole head was hot. Something was not right. I did not like this flippant discussion. “WRONG. NO. UH UH.” Those were the only words flashing in my head like grubby, late night, neon signs.”
This lady was climbing up on a self made pedestal. She was scoffing at the fact that some students from that “other” school might actually want to go to college. The nerve.
In the moment, I knew something was wrong. I was angry and mortified by her tone. I was embarrassed to be part of a group that elevated themselves above anybody. That’s not me. That’s not what I want. And in all reality, that’s the opposite purpose of this group.
Of course, all these descriptive words are only coming to me now, eons later. After the moment I could have stood up for my convictions. After I could have stood up for those students.
I wish my brain would speed up so I could have said:
“Listen up, Bitch. Who do you think you are, putting yourself in the almighty powerful benefactor position. Who are you to take the stance that, since you have had a the opportunity to make positive decisions in your life, you get to decide if someone is worthy of a scholarship, let alone even dreaming about college.
The kids that go to the Alternative High School probably didn’t come from overly supportive environments. They may not have had the chance to be educated about making positive long term choices. There could have been situations that they were put into that gave them no other choice. Maybe they were hungry or longing for relationship and found food to fill their souls in places you look down on.
Their circumstances may not have even been a personal choice. Who knows? I certainly don’t and I’m not going to judge their entire life goals on the fact that they attend an Alternative School.
Yes, maybe they willingly chose to slack off in school, maybe they willingly put themselves in situations where they got pregnant. Taking care of a baby makes it really hard to show up for Social Studies class or turn in Math homework. But the fact remains, THEY ARE BACK IN SCHOOL TRYING TO GET THEIR DIPLOMA. They may be dreaming about going further and going to college. They have hopes and dreams, who are you to decide that the scholarship money is better served going elsewhere. Bitchy McBitcherson.”
Of course I didn’t say all that. And of course I would never say that to someone I just met (or anyone I knew, for that matter). But that is what I said to her when I kept replaying that meeting over and over in my head. Instead, I took all that energy and scrubbed my house until it sparkled. But my house didn’t need that energy, those students did. They needed an advocate in that meeting and I failed them.
Someone was crazy enough to think that I would be a good part of this group. Honestly, I think they just saw fresh meat and no one else was around. Now they are stuck with me, and whether they like it or not, I don’t freaking care about budgets and decorations, I want the kids from Alternative High School to get the damn scholarship money. I want the kids who are hungry to be fed. I want the kids who are lonely to have a friend. I want those to be my duties, rather than all the peripheral social butt kissing.
Most of all, I want my brain to actually step up. I want my mind to quit slacking off so I can speak up when I am convicted. And I don’t ever, EVER, want to place myself in a position where I look down on others. Alternative people, hungry people, lonely people: we are all on equal playing fields. Choices and circumstances don’t elevate or subjugate. There are no levels. We all have to survive together.
Since my brain held me hostage that day, I did the only thing available in my verbal repertoire. I glared at the back of her head. Hard. My eyes lasered all the burning uneasiness into her ear. I folded my arms and didn’t speak to her for the rest of the meeting. I gave her the coldest of cold shoulders. It wasn’t pretty, but it was all I could give in that moment.
This same situation may occur again. Even if it doesn’t, it is guaranteed that I will find my convictions ruffled. I will find more people who are spitting on others. I want to have the courage to ask a probing question. I want to give my brain time to catch up so I have the honor of getting to stick up for those who may not have a voice. I want the words in the moment, not two days later.
Those without a voice don’t need me specifically, they just need one word, one person to start the conversation. That person may end up being me, but it might also be you. Who needs you to root for them? Who needs you in their corner? Will you have the strength and courage to speak up?