Before You Abuse, Criticize and Accuse… Walk a Mile in My Shoes

I won’t lie. This week , the week of the Parkland shooting has been difficult for me.

The violence, yes. But it is the anger, the vitriol, the divisiveness that has leveled me. As an empath, I feel it all.

It won’t surprise those of you who truly know me to hear that I was driving from my son’s home on Valentine’s Day, just before noon PST, having left a gift on his doorstep,  when I was suddenly overcome with a grief so all encompassing that I had to pull to the side of the highway.

I sat and sobbed for a full ten minutes.

As soon as the emotion had passed through me, and I was back on the road, my mind began processing:   What the hell was that?

Sadness over my son and his girlfriend’s breakup?

Being alone on Valentine’s Day?

Neither of these fit the depth of despair I felt.

Arriving home 15 minutes later I checked the news. The shooting was just being reported.

I had felt it happen. A continent away. The outcrying. The grief of so many souls.

 

Here’s my personal gun story:

When I was twenty five,  I was robbed at gunpoint.

I can no longer tell you the month, though it was definitely a weekday, as I was leaving work with two cohorts.

We stood in the open air parking lot at Meyerland Mall at 6:11pm  where the temperature was a balmy 82 degrees. Those numbers, displayed on a digital clock at Meyerland Bank are etched in my mind.

We were dawdling in an empty parking stall, chatting before heading to our vehicles, gossiping about the events of the day when a four door sedan pulled up and the rear passenger side door opened.

A young black man got out screaming.

I remember looking around to see who he could possibly be yelling at.

He took two steps toward me, thrust the cold barrel of a steel grey handgun to my belly and said,  “I’m gonna kill you, bitch” as he grabbed my handbag.

Nancy, next to me, stood frozen, her bag locked on her shoulder by a stack of books she had crooked in the elbow of her right arm.

Karen had more sense than we two and throwing her bag at him , shouted , “Here come the cops”.

The would be shooter hesitated momentarily and leveled his gun at Nancy, still in possession of her purse growling, “ I’m coming back for you.”

With that, he hopped into the backseat, slammed the door and the car sped off.

The whole encounter lasted less than a couple minutes but the details are indelibly imprinted.

In that 120 seconds, my brain had “seen” what a bullet can do to human flesh and I knew I could never own a gun. NEVER.  Because if I ever had to actually pull the trigger and kill, though my body may survive, my soul would never recover.

But here’s the thing.  Perspective is a function of experience.

If you had spent Saturday mornings of your childhood hunting in a duck blind with your dad,  your experience of shooting would be a totally different thing.

It would be, I’m assuming, associated with feelings of togetherness, bonding, the adrenaline of hitting your target. Perhaps a great meal afterwards.

Totally different .

And I don’t have to have had your experience to get it.  I don’t even have to agree with it.

I can respect you enough as an individual to realize its effect on you, its importance and how your feelings came to be.

You probably can see where I am going with this.

 

There is a huge chasm in this country on many things.  

People joke we are no longer the United States of America, we’re now the Divided States of America.

The recent shooting has exacerbated it.

And yet, we must somehow come together on this issue.

We ALL must sit together and determine a solution to a problem that is killing our neighbors, our friends, OUR KIDS.

We must do it in a way that is respectful of our different experiences.

In a way that the conversation isn’t peppered with idiot, a**hole, snowflake , Trumpster, libtard and any of the very creative ways I have seen people denigrate one another.

The divide is real and it seems to be widening.

Have you stopped talking with a friend, coworker or family member over the political divide?

Can you be BIGGER than your politics?

Can you see that we have more in common than not?

Here’s a few ways to get started:

Listen to: Joe South and the Believers: Walk a Mile in My Shoes   Let the words wash over you, knowing that hate only escalates hate.

Contact:   The People’s Supper to either host or attend a dinner with people in your community who are open to dialogue.

Contact:  Gandhi Center for Nonviolence  to learn more about non violent communication

Read:   Marshall Rosenberg’s NonViolent Communication: A Language of Life , to better understand how words contribute to connection or distance from one other.

Read: Brene Brown’s  Braving the Wilderness that speaks to cultivating true belonging in our communities.

OR Simply Ask:

What has been your personal experience with Guns?  Then listen to learn.

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing,

and right-doing, there is a field.

I will meet you there.

~ Rumi